How did the Baltimore Ravens get their nickname? Full history & timeline

The Ravens' name history is fairly detailed
Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers
Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers / Robin Alam/ISI Photos/GettyImages

It's hard to establish an iconic brand in 30 years when many teams across the NFL have been around for close to 100 years, but the Baltimore Ravens managed to do just that with an unforgettable namesake, logo, and color scheme.

Art Modell tied his legacy to his new franchise in Baltimore, christening it with a name that has quickly become one of the most recognizable namesakes in football.

The Ravens' namesake is fairly obvious to anyone from the DMV era, as it was inspired by Maryland's own Edgar Allen Poe's poem "The Raven." The name has proved popular with fans throughout the team's history, but they almost made a left turn into the generic or bizarre.

How did the Baltimore Ravens get their name?

Baltimore had previously tried to win expansion in 1993, with names like the Rhinos and Bays getting some serious consideration. Ultimately, the Baltimore Bombers (a nod to the locally made Martin B-26 Marauder bomber) won out, complete with a blue and bronze color scheme.

Unfortunately, commissioner Paul Tagliabue derided Baltimore as a "museum town" and gave the two remaining bids to Jacksonville and Charlotte.

Many suspected that Tagliabue, who was close with then-Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, did not want to introduce any local market competition. The success of the Baltimore Stallions in the Canadian Football League's USA expansion in the mid-1990s helped Tagliabue rethink this idea.

Just a few years later, Modell picked up his Browns and moved them to Baltimore. Modell originally wanted to pay the Indianapolis Colts $5 million for their naming rights to rechristen his franchise as the Baltimore Colts, but the Irsay family wanted between $25 and $50 million for the rights.

A list of more than 100 possible names was narrowed down to just 17 in total. Focus groups of both casual and devoted NFL fans were arranged. They had to both answer a questionnaire and listen to play-by-play calls of various team names.

Bombers had received more serious consideration, but in the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the name fell out of favor. Mayor Kurt Schmoke even wrote a letter asking for the name not to be used.

Even in this stage of the planning, Ravens was the most popular non-Colts name. Modell was partial to being named the Bulldogs (especially due to the old Canton Bulldogs connection). However, this name fell out of favor because some believed it was too high school-ish, generic, and similar to the "Dawg Pound" in Cleveland.

The franchise eventually settled on a group of five names. The following quintet would be the subject of a Baltimore Sun poll that would give fans the power to choose what their team would be called.

  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Baltimore Americans (named after a train built in Baltimore, oddly enough)
  • Baltimore Marauders (another link to the old Bombers)
  • Baltimore Mustangs (legally distinct horse-themed name)
  • Baltimore Railers (another train-themed name that didn't get a ton of steam)

The poll was conducted via telephone on March 28, 1996, with over 33,000 voters. Ravens was the overwhelming winner of this poll, earning about 22,000 votes while Americans and Marauders were nearly equal at 5,600 votes each. The purple, black, and gold color scheme followed and the rest is history.

A bad rebrand would have haunted Baltimore for some time, but they nailed it in 1996.