Back in July, the NLL announced that its latest expansion team would begin play in the 2021-2022 season in Fort Worth, Texas. This week, the name, logo, and colors of the team was announced, and lacrosse twitter went nuts over the Panther City Lacrosse Club.
With any announcement like this, you’re going to get people who love it, people who hate it, and those in the middle. The most recent NLL team name announcements (the Wings, Thunderbirds, Seals, and Riptide) were generally well received. I did hear a couple of complaints that the Wings should have chosen a new name but those people are simply wrong. The new Knighthawks team name and the rebranding of the Stealth into the Warriors weren’t quite as well received, but weren’t universally despised either. But like most internet-based complaining, haters hated for a short while, then whatever they hated became the new norm and they forgot that they hated it.
The Panther City announcement might have been the most polarizing of them all. There were many, myself included, who weren’t really sure what to think at the beginning. I certainly didn’t think “Wow, that’s awesome!” when I heard the name, but I didn’t hate it either. I saw a lot of positive comments, some from fans (or hopefully-soon-to-be fans) in Texas who are excited to have a team near them.
But there were a fair number of negative comments as well, from fans, journalists, and even former NLL players. There seemed to be two major problems:
- With this name, it’s not clear where the team plays, and
- The “Lacrosse Club” part of the name is unusual
Have you ever heard of Fort Worth referred to as the Panther City? I hadn’t. Some cities have nicknames that are known far and wide: Chicago is the Windy City, Portland (Oregon) is the Rose City, New York is the Big Apple, etc. but many others have nicknames that are only known locally. Ever heard of Hamilton, Ontario referred to as the Waterfall City? I hadn’t until I moved here, and I suspect nobody outside Hamilton knows that name. This one is likely the same: people from that part of Texas may know what “Panther City” refers to, but others won’t.
I’m curious what people thought when the name “Golden State Warriors” was announced in 1971. I think California having the nickname of “Golden State” is a little more well-known than Panther City, but it’s still not obvious. Most comparisons have been made to European soccer; there is no city or town in Italy called “Juventus” and the team called Rangers that plays in Glasgow is not the “Glasgow Rangers”, it’s just “Rangers Football Club”. North American soccer is similar – a team called “Chivas USA” played in MLS for ten years. They were based in Los Angeles, but I had to look that up.
So “Panther City” doesn’t tell most people where the team is based. But really, so what? The Georgia Swarm, Colorado Mammoth, New York Riptide, and Saskatchewan Rush use the name of their state or province rather than the city they play in. The New England Black Wolves are even less specific, using the collective name of a half-dozen states all gathered together.
As for the Lacrosse Club part of the name, that’s also drawn comparisons to soccer teams as well as to the PLL. All of the PLL teams have “Lacrosse Club” in their name, but nobody says that part of it. It’s just Atlas and Chaos. Now and then you might see Atlas LC or Chaos LC written, but not usually. Hell, the name of the Toronto Maple Leafs is officially “The Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club”, and other teams in the NHL and other leagues do the same thing.
Personally, I think the name is growing on me. There are teams in other leagues with a location and no nickname (Toronto FC and a few other MLS teams), and I find those boring and unimaginative. There are teams with a nickname and no location (Juventus, Rangers), and that’s more interesting. This one is different because the nickname is the location but it’s obscure.
“Fort Worth Panthers” would have been fine. Not fantastic, but fine. If it was just “Fort Worth Lacrosse Club”, I wouldn’t have been thrilled with it. But I’m sure they’ll be referred to as “the Panthers” now and again, and the fact that they sort of have a nickname in there makes it unique and interesting, and that might get people talking. If you tell your non-lacrosse friends that your team is playing Panther City next weekend, they may ask what that means. Will some of them say “that’s stupid” and come out with a negative view of the NLL? Probably but you can’t avoid that entirely. Others might just think “Huh, that’s interesting”.
When people outside the NLL are talking about the NLL, and it’s not related to a big-name player getting suspended, that’s a good thing.