NFL horns in on a name: Rhinos

August 11, 1993|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer

Get ready for the stampede, sports fans.

At the request of the NFL, Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass and Malcolm Glazer have tentatively selected a name for the Baltimore expansion team they each want to own: the Rhinos.

"It seems like it's going to be the Rhinos," Mr. Weinglass said. "We're 75 to 80 percent sure that's going to be it."

Mr. Weinglass said he and Joel Glazer, Malcolm's son, agreed on the name in a telephone conversation a few days ago and have forwarded it to the league, which had initially suggested it. Logos and uniform designs are in the works, Mr. Weinglass said.

"Any name we use -- other than the Colts -- somebody is not going to like it," he said.

Joel Glazer, who would play a prominent role in running his father's NFL team here, declined to comment, citing requests from the NFL not to talk about names. League officials, who have veto power over a team name, say they have not ruled on the Rhinos yet.

"There are still a number of names that are being considered, so nothing has been approved from our end. Nothing is set in stone," said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.

The league is eager to have merchandise ready to sell when the winning cities are announced in October, according to a source involved in the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. NFL officials asked the two groups to agree on a name, and will be prepared with T-shirts and caps when the franchises are awarded, the source said.

There is a chance the name could be changed later by an owner, but that would be costly.

"It looks like [Rhinos] is going to be it," said another source connected with the local NFL effort.

Baltimore is competing with St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn., and Charlotte, N.C., for two expansion teams that will begin play in 1995. St. Louis is favoring the Stallions as a name and Charlotte the Panthers. Memphis is considering several names, including Hound Dogs, Bombers and Showboats.

If the NFL picks Baltimore, it then would choose between Mr. Glazer, a Florida-based corporate investor, and a group led by Mr. Weinglass, chairman of Joppa-based retailer Merry-Go-Round, to own the team. Mr. Weinglass' group includes moviemaker Barry Levinson, ex-Colt Joe Washington, retail executives Michael Sullivan, E. Douglas Carton and David Bernstein, local attorney Peter G. Angelos and investor Richard Pearlstone.

(Mr. Weinglass, like some others in his group, is among the investors who joined Mr. Angelos' successful bid for the Orioles last week, and says he would sell his baseball shares if he gets a football team.)

Unlike the league's early days, when a name reflected the whimsy of an owner, a modern nickname is the result of extensive research. The NFL told its prospective owners a year ago to seek something that projects toughness, can be easily personified in logos and mascots and is racially and politically inoffensive.

That pretty much leaves the animal world, which already has been plundered by sports teams. And the ponderous, horned rhinoceros is about the only one left capable of striking fear into an enemy.

Everyone involved in the local NFL effort says he would like to get the Colts name back. But the team took the name with it when it moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984, and its executives said the name is not for sale.

Mr. Weinglass filed trademark applications on two names: the Bombers and Ravens. The Bombers appealed to him because of the city's role in military aviation. The Ravens contrast nicely with the baseball Orioles, and Edgar Allan Poe, author of "The Raven," is buried here, he said.

The Glazers filed for the Cobras.

The league was wary of the Bombers because of its military connotations, Mr. Weinglass said. He said he wasn't sure about the logo the Ravens would use, and he decided that there were too many birds flying in the sports world -- Eagles, Falcons, Seahawks and Cardinals in the NFL alone.

The Rhinos lend themselves to a hot symbol that would sell well, Mr. Weinglass said.

Unlike the Panthers and Stallions, there never has been a Rhino in any professional football league. Hanover, Penn., had Rhinos in the semi-pro Interstate Football League in the 1970s.

"A Rhino is new and fresh," said Mr. Weinglass.

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