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Stories behind every NFL team name

Stacker Logo By Seth Berkman of Stacker | Slide 1 of 33: There are no National Football League teams in the magical world of Oz, but there are Lions, Bengals, and Bears. The NFL has 32 teams—each with a unique story about how it came to be. Some names were chosen by fan contests, while others had ties to former professional sports teams. There is an abundance of animals names, and other monikers steeped in a rich history. Then there are teams like the Washington Redskins, whose name continues to be a lightning rod for controversy.

For 100 years, the Arizona Cardinals kept the same nickname as the team moved from Chicago to St. Louis for the 1960-1961 season, then in 1988 to Arizona, where the Cardinals remain today. As the NFL got older, relocation became a common theme—but we will explain the intricacies of how franchises in Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Baltimore are all intertwined (and even how the Baltimore Ravens attempted to buy the Indianapolis Colts name, despite having no previous ties to the franchise).

There are some football teams with well-known nicknames—the Jets are often referred to as Gang Green—but we also divulge how some teams’ official names are sparingly used (the Jets’ neighbors, the Giants, are actually known as the New York Football Giants). Sometimes a team name can tell you a lot about local history: The Vikings of Minnesota draw upon the area’s strong ties to Scandinavia; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are dripping in local legend related to Florida’s piratey past. Whether it’s a history lesson or tracing the origins of a team’s former homes, this list of football etymology will be sure to get you primed for the upcoming season, which will be the NFL’s 100th anniversary.

Let’s kick off the countdown with the folks who earned their nickname by buying boxes of used team jerseys.

You may also like: Famous NFL players from every state

Stories behind every NFL team name

There are no National Football League teams in the magical world of Oz, but there are Lions, Bengals, and Bears. The NFL has 32 teams—each with a unique story about how it came to be. Some names were chosen by fan contests, while others had ties to former professional sports teams. There is an abundance of animals names, and other monikers steeped in a rich history. Then there are teams like the Washington Redskins, whose name continues to be a lightning rod for controversy.

For 100 years, the Arizona Cardinals kept the same nickname as the team moved from Chicago to St. Louis for the 1960-1961 season, then in 1988 to Arizona, where the Cardinals remain today. As the NFL got older, relocation became a common theme—but we will explain the intricacies of how franchises in Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Baltimore are all intertwined (and even how the Baltimore Ravens attempted to buy the Indianapolis Colts name, despite having no previous ties to the franchise).

There are some football teams with well-known nicknames—the Jets are often referred to as Gang Green—but we also divulge how some teams’ official names are sparingly used (the Jets’ neighbors, the Giants, are actually known as the New York Football Giants). Sometimes a team name can tell you a lot about local history: The Vikings of Minnesota draw upon the area’s strong ties to Scandinavia; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are dripping in local legend related to Florida’s piratey past. Whether it’s a history lesson or tracing the origins of a team’s former homes, this list of football etymology will be sure to get you primed for the upcoming season, which will be the NFL’s 100th anniversary.

Let’s kick off the countdown with the folks who earned their nickname by buying boxes of used team jerseys.

You may also like: Famous NFL players from every state

© Dustin Bradford // Getty Images

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