Fans Speak: We're off to See the Wizards
Hughes, Frank, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
It's official. Starting with the 1997-98 season, the Washington Bullets will become the Washington Wizards.
After nearly three months of controversial debate on the name change, team owner Abe Pollin last night announced that Wizards beat out Dragons, Express, Sea Dogs and Stallions in a call-in contest.
Pollin would not release the results of the contest, saying only that the Wizards' winning margin was "more than a thousand."
The contest was held on a 900 number, which cost $1 per call. Pollin said proceeds will go to the owner's anti-violence campaign.
When asked why he wasn't revealing the results of the contest or how much money was raised, Pollin said, "Because I don't want this to be compared to the New Hampshire primary or [other] polls."
The Bullets now will send the name to the NBA's marketing arm, which will develop a logo, colors and new uniforms. No time frame has been set for when they'll be revealed.
Pollin said he has veto power over the NBA's creations, and if he doesn't like its design, he will tell them to try again.
"It's my team," Pollin said. "I have that right."
Pollin said he would have liked to begin using the name Wizards as early as next season, but he was informed by the NBA that merchandise companies have property rights on the name Bullets and usage could not begin that quickly.
As it is, the new name and uniforms will coincide with the opening of the Bullets' downtown arena, the MCI Center. Bullets will be a lame-duck name for the rest of this season and next.
"In life there is transition to everything," Pollin said. "This is one of those transitions."
Pollin said he has not thought about whether the team will begin selling Wizards merchandise before 1997-98 or wait until the new arena opens.
The contest to rename the team began in November, when fans were asked to submit their choices at a local restaurant chain. More than 500,000 entries were received, with nearly 3,000 names offered.
The team pared down the choices to five finalists, asking fans once again for their votes. Pollin received a great deal of criticism from former players, the media and fans who seemed to feel that the final five were not good choices or that the contest was fixed in favor of the Wizards - one of Pollin's choices from the beginning. …