When Nicknames Were Crowdsourced: or, How to Change a Team's Mascot

47 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2015 Last revised: 17 Jul 2015

Date Written: June 30, 2015


This essay is about who can change a sports team’s nickname. In fact, it’s mostly about history, and how teams’ control over their nicknames has changed over time. Most of the essay traces the history of six well-known football and baseball team nicknames, focusing on the years from (roughly) 1890 to 1930. The six case studies are: the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Michigan State Spartans, the Washington Senators, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and the Chicago Cubs.

In addition, though, this essay is also about the future. A number of groups have asked Daniel Snyder, the owner of Washington’s pro football team, to change that team’s nickname. So far, Mr. Snyder has refused. My essay begins with a fictional account of how that nickname might conceivably be changed even without Mr. Snyder’s consent. That possibility may strike modern readers as strange – but in 1890, it would have seemed perfectly normal.

Keywords: football, baseball, sports, nicknames, Cornhuskers, Dodgers, Spartans, Irish, cubs, trademarks, mascots

JEL Classification: L83

Suggested Citation

Craswell, Richard, When Nicknames Were Crowdsourced: or, How to Change a Team's Mascot (June 30, 2015). By permission of the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, from the Stanford Law Review at 67 Stan. L. Rev. 1221 (2015), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2557870 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2557870

Richard Craswell (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-725-8542 (Phone)
650-723-8230 (Fax)

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