Colts name, CFL style, is worth fight

January 26, 1994|By John Steadman

ATLANTA -- What could establish an all-time record for massive arrogance, ruthlessness and spitefulness by the National Football League toward Baltimore is in the throes of revealing itself in a manner that almost defies comprehension.

Except you have to remember this is the NFL, where decency doesn't mean much any more. It hasn't made a statement addressing the issue but it is learned it will try to block a team that plans to join the Canadian Football League from using the name Baltimore Colts.

If the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland allow this to happen without an all-out fight, going to the Supreme Court, if necessary, then the next move will be for the NFL, under the cover of darkness, to try to drain Chesapeake Bay and move it to Indianapolis where it would be renamed Tagliabue Bay.

The NFL, like a mad dictator that needs to be checked, resembles an organization drunk with power and relentless in its quest to destroy Baltimore's enormous football heritage. It is now filching Baltimore's good name -- the Colts.

It is going to try, we're told, to keep Baltimore from using the name Colts that didn't originate with them but was born when the city was in another league, the All-American Football Conference, in 1947.

How can the NFL stop Baltimore from using the name Colts if it enters a league based in Canada? NFL Properties and the Indianapolis Colts, which plundered the team and the name in 1984, have trademarked the following titles: Baltimore Colts, Indianapolis Colts and just plain Colts.

"Anything we sell with the Colts name would belong to them," said Jim Speros, who wants to bring a Canadian league team to Baltimore.

The legislatures, along with Gov. William Donald Schaefer and ,, Mayor Kurt Schmoke of Baltimore, were appalled when they learned NFL may attempt to prevent the Colts -- CFL version -- from being put back into circulation.

The name Colts originally was the suggestion of a fan, Charles Evans, who submitted the winning entry in a contest. Evans, who worked for a security company, was then living in Victory Villa, near Middle River. The NFL had nothing -- absolutely zero -- to do with any part of originating the name Colts. This is fully documented in all the public records.

There's not a judge or jury in the free world, despite what the NFL might contend, that would rule against Baltimore if the case went to litigation. "I've been told it is now an NFL registered trademark," Speros reported. "I intend to exhaust every opportunity, one way or another, to get the name. If they want to sell it, I'll consider buying it."

That shouldn't be necessary. The Colts name for a football team was born in Baltimore, long before it entered the NFL and decades ahead of when NFL Properties came into being and tried tying up everything but the air we breathe.

Hopefully, Speros won't be intimidated. If he caves in, it will be a deep disappointment.

The Baltimore Colts' Band still marches, the Baltimore Colts Corral fan clubs still meet and the Baltimore Colts Players' Alumni Association continues to function. How come the NFL hasn't attempted to grind them into nothingness?

Speros ought to consider using the name Baltimore Colts and behind it, in brackets, put CFL to avoid the conflict. That way the Colts couldn't be accused of trying to profit at the expense of the NFL. If it wasn't so sad it would be funny.

What all of this tells Baltimore is that it has to stand up to the NFL and assert its rights to the name Colts or the next thing Tagliabue will be doing is changing the name of Indianapolis to Baltimore.

As for the helmet logo, the horseshoes, the NFL and its properties division had nothing to do with that either. It's not creative enough. The horseshoes were put there by a former Colts publicity director, Sam Banks, in 1954.

Speros doesn't want the horseshoes because he has another logo prepared that would be distinctive to the CFL and Baltimore. It would give the team a fresh start but the NFL prefers to make it difficult.

But Baltimore has to stand up to assert itself or be trampled by the greed and selfishness of a league that has lost both soul and character.

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