(CNSNews.com) – Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis told WMAL on Friday that he is “open” to changing the team’s name back to the Washington Bullets.
“Yeah, I’m open to that,” Leonsis told WMAL’s “Mornings on the Mall” when asked whether he was considering changing the team’s name back to its former name. “Many fans have suggested it, and I’ve just felt that it’s … like a cheap thrill to change the name back.”
“We have taken it under advisement. We’ve done a lot of research on that issue. It’s a major redesign, and it honestly, does take about two years if you want to change the name,” Leonis said.
The NBA team owner has already changed the “look and the feel” of the Wizards by changing the uniforms’ color and design.
“And so what we elected to do in the short-term was to change the look and the feel, which we did last season of the uniforms and of our design and go back to that red, white, and blue, and I think for the time being that’s all we’ll do. But yeah, I’m open to that,” Leonsis said.
The Washington Redskins has been under fire recently for its name, deemed by some to be a racial slur offensive to Native Americans.
“You know know here on ‘Mornings on the Mall,’ we’ve been covering something that happened in Washington yesterday – symposium down at the Smithsonian, and it had to do with the name of the football team in this town – the Redskins,” said WMAL on-air personality Brian Wilson.
“Many American Indians find it to be an offensive name. It’s becoming more and more of a topic around town. You own a team that once had to change its name because the previous owner felt like the name was not appropriate given what was going on at the time. If you were Dan Snyder, do you think you would … change the name of the Redskins to something else?” Wilson asked.
Leonsis said he couldn’t put himself in “someone else’s shoes.”
“If it were you, what would you do?” Wilson asked.
“I have my own issue – half the people want us to change the name from the Wizards back to the Bullets, and the other half say, ‘Don’t you dare ever do something like that,’ and so these are very, very emotional issues,” Leonsis said, adding that the issue gets “blown somewhat out of proportion.”
“We’re just focused right now on trying to make our team a high performer, and we can address the name of the team at another time. That’s kind of a small issue for us right now,” he added.
Leonsis said he has “sympathy” for Snyder, because he bought a team that is established and has a “popular” brand. Leonsis would rather not give Snyder advice, however, because Leonsis said he has his “own problems to deal with.”
Leonsis also owns the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the Verizon Center and is majority owner of the NHL’s Washington Capitals.
Former Washington Bullets owner Abe Pollin changed the Washington Bullets to the Washington Wizards in 1996 because he believed bullets were associated with violence. Pollin announced on Feb. 22, 1996 that the name change would take effect before the 1997-98 season when the team moved to what was then called the MCI Arena. The MCI Arena is now known as the Verizon Center.