OT: NFL Question on Championships for No longer existing teams

Submitted by WingsNWolverines on January 20th, 2013 at 11:20 PM

As we all know the Baltimore Colts, Los Angeles Rams and Canton Bulldogs are gone but their league championships are still left behind and recognized. My question is who gets the title? The team they transition into like Baltimore to Indy and Los Angeles to St. Louis or do they go to the city or members of the family who once owned the team? I always wondered about this and would like to know if anybody knows the answer. I don't trust google and wikipedia for these questions cause there is really never a definitive answer. Do they become neutral titles?



January 20th, 2013 at 11:27 PM ^

It depends. I think the Baltimore Colts history became the Indy Colts history, and the orginal Browns history stayed in Cleveland with the team colors and whatnot. The OKC Thunder also had to leave the history and name and stuff in Seattle when they moved. I believe it depends on the league and the ownership and so forth.


January 21st, 2013 at 12:17 AM ^

that's the crux of the issue... there's a gap between how people view something and how the NFL views it. As for the NFL is concerned, the Colts are the same Colts who Johnny Unitas played for (and Indianapolis tried to take advantage of that several times, up to issuing Indiana state licence plates with a number 19 jersey on it)


January 21st, 2013 at 12:20 AM ^

This is true. Yes, the Colts had a rich tradition in Baltimore with Johnny Unitis. The stats/records and the teams wins from that time are still recognized by the organization (the team simply moved cities). Most people in Indy don't claim or boast about anything from the Baltimore era. It wasn't our team then. Just doesn't seem right.


January 21st, 2013 at 2:22 AM ^

According to the Seattle Times:

"Additionally, he owns the Sonics' original championship trophy, banners and retired jerseys and is permitted to periodically display them in Oklahoma City. For most of the year, the items will be kept in Seattle at the Museum of History and Industry. Bennett agreed to return their ownership to Seattle should an NBA franchise emerge here."


I have a hard time believing he will just give it up that easily.

snarling wolverine

January 21st, 2013 at 11:59 AM ^

What's the point, honestly?  Are people in Oklahoma City really going to get excited to see a trophy the franchise won when it was located 2,000 miles away?

Yes, I can just picture a proud OKC fan showing those items to his kid.  "You see that, sonny boy?  That trophy was won by our Thunder in '79.  Of course, they weren't called the Thunder back then and didn't play in the state of Oklahoma.  But dadgum, our city just felt a connection with Slick Watts and the rest, and we knew that someday, they'd be playing here..."


January 20th, 2013 at 11:57 PM ^

I was confused as hell at first, but now I understand your question ... and it is a good one. I read a SI coffee table book on the Bears history & Chicago has the most Championships since the beginning. I'm not sure if any of those were as another team. I think they were the Staleys (sp?) at one point. And if I recall there used to be 2 Chicago football teams.


January 21st, 2013 at 12:44 AM ^

Staleys = Bears.  The other Chicago team was the Cardinals, the same one that's now in Arizona, with a stint in St. Louis between.

As to the OP's question, and to clear up the Chicago thing too, in almost all cases the NFL considers the history of a team to move with that team.  The Rams and Colts and Cardinals and so on all get to keep their history from their old cities.  Even the Tennessee Titans as well; they have kept the history of the Houston Oilers.  The only case in the NFL where history stayed in the city and not with the team is in Cleveland.  For the league's intents and purposes, the Ravens left the Browns' history behind and started afresh when they moved, and the current Browns, even though they technically were an expansion team, own the history of the old Browns.  That's the only case; in all other moves, the history moved with the team.

snarling wolverine

January 21st, 2013 at 11:47 AM ^

The Pistons do not recognize their Fort Wayne records.  They made the NBA Finals in Fort Wayne twice (1954 and 1955) but there are no banners commemorating this, which I think is the right now.  If you relocate a franchise to a totally new city, you shouldn't pretend it's kept all its history.



January 21st, 2013 at 12:31 PM ^

But they were asking about the League. And the NBA recognizes them as the same team:


George Yardley is their first 2,000 point scorer, even though he spent the majority of his career in Fort Wayne. 

They include their year by year results, and I'm guessing overall W-L and stats. So the team may make a break, but the League considers them the same franchise.


January 21st, 2013 at 12:39 AM ^

As of a couple years ago, the Phx Coyotes still had retired numbers from the Winnipeg Jets at their arena. And some fans, many of whom are originally from Canada, would wear old Jets jerseys to the games. But I haven't been there since the new Winnipeg Jets, who used to be the Thrashers, started playing, so I don't know if they kept the retired numbers.


January 21st, 2013 at 9:00 AM ^

The only instance I can find in which the championships did not count in the record book is with teams that still exist which were once part of the old AAFC, most notably the Cleveland Browns. Supposedly, this was a quirk of the merger of the AAFC and NFL in 1950. The Browns, in keeping with the example, have 4 AAFC championships and 4 pre-merger NFL championships. The Hall Of Fame recognizes all eight, whereas the record and fact book recognizes only the NFL championships. 

All the references I found, however, still list lost-since moved (or even defunct) teams as champions in various years in the various iterations of the NFL championship (which was simply determined by overall record until 1932, I think).