• By: OLM Staff

Doing it Right: Ottawa Football’s Newest Franchise

Ottawa football fans should embrace the CFL’s newest franchise, the REDBLACKS, not because it is a distinct brand name, but because of what it represents for Ottawa sports fans and the former Ottawa Renegades and Rough Riders.

The official June 8 ceremony unveiling the team’s new name and logo sparked controversy among the fans when Jeff Hunt, president of the sports division of Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group (OSEG), made the announcement.

While most fans are thrilled with the name and saw-blade logo, many are displeased with the decision, so much so that the brand name is being ridiculed on social networking sites such as Twitter. When representatives of the CFL franchise contacted media outlets in response to this online derision, they requested that the brand name be spelled entirely in capital letters. This request further infuriated sports fans and fueled the fire for the online mockery.

Despite the ongoing media chatter about the name of the CFL’s newest franchise, there may be something about the brand name that sports fans are missing: it is a new identity for the team, along with a distinct name and logo meant to honor the rich history of football in the city.

The REDBLACKS is a name with a long story to tell that symbolizes the victories achieved and the trials faced by the two previous teams: the Renegades and the Ottawa Rough Riders. The REDBLACKS relates back to 1876 when Ottawa’s first football team was established: the Rough Riders.

Winning the Grey Cup Championship five times in a row over the span of a decade (1960-1970) and nine times overall, the Rough Riders were a team that made Ottawa stand out in the history of Canadian football.

Despite transcending moments, Ottawa’s football history also has a checkered past. The team underwent hardship when faced with poor attendance records and losing seasons in the 1980s and 1990s. Fans were not impressed when the team folded in 1996 and was revived in 2002 with a new name: the Renegades.

From 2002 to 2008, Ottawa football fans endured more adversity as the Renegades went four seasons without qualifying for the Grey Cup and were suspended. Despite these shortcomings, players and fans were hopeful in 2008 when Jeff Hunt, the owner of the Ottawa 67’s Ontario Hockey League team and president of OSEG, took matters into his own hands.

Jeff Hunt

Hunt and his advisors determined what the name of the new franchise would be and what that name would represent. Keeping the past in mind, Hunt and company believed that REDBLACKS would be the perfect “made-up” word to describe Ottawa’s football history and would also embody what the franchise hopes to achieve in the future.

At the name unveiling ceremony, Hunt said the name and logo harken back to iconic players like Russ Jackson and Tony Gabriel, while looking ahead to the revitalized Lansdowne Park Russ Jackson and Tony Gabriel and the boost the new CFL franchise will give to the City of Ottawa. The new logo design – a black saw blade with a white capital “R” in front and a red circle in between, references Ottawa’s history in terms of football and sawmills.

The capital “R” honors the two teams that came before, which once represented Ottawa and fought to win championship titles. The saw is said to tie into Ottawa’s lumber history and the red, black and white are traditional city colors worn by other professional teams that also represent the National Capital Region, such as the Ottawa Senators.

 The “Red and Black” was a longtime nickname of the Roughriders as far back as the 1920’s. The REDBLACKS has a vintage feel akin to old-time sports team names like football’s Cleveland Browns, or baseball’s Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds. Teams with roots in American history. Similarly, the name REDBLACKS evokes another time in Canada and celebrates Ottawa’s rich football tradition extending back over a century.

The REDBLACKS is a name the franchise hopes residents of Ottawa can get comfortable with.

While sports commentators and people on social media sites continue to mock and poke fun at the franchise name, they should be aware that they are not only satirizing the name but also what it represents: the city’s history, the old-time players, the dedicated fans and the Lansdowne renaissance it is bringing, such as the stunningly designed Frank Clair Stadium.