From the Wizards back to the Bullets? A bad call

Saturday, October 9, 2010; A14

BEFORE WE GET to what we think of changing the team name of the Washington Wizards, we have to say this: Thank you, Ted Leonsis. It was a welcome and unusual gesture from a team owner to seek fans' ideas on how to improve the Washington basketball team and the experience of attending games. A lot of owners give lip service to their fans, but it's rare to find one who actually compiles a list of 101 ideas and then proceeds to check them off, one by one, as accomplished.

And who can argue with suggestions like fresher popcorn, warmer pizza and colder beer? It's by paying attention to such details and building a team that people actually want to watch that Mr. Leonsis resuscitated the Capitals and hopes to do again with the Wizards. Nonetheless -- and we don't care how much fan clamor there is for it -- it's a bad idea to even think about changing the team's name back to the Bullets. It was, of course, Abe Pollin, the late owner of the team, who changed the name in 1997 because he believed it was repugnant to countenance -- much less cheer -- a team called the Bullets when the city was awash in the violence caused by guns. Mr. Pollin felt firsthand the loss caused by guns when his friend, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated.

Crime has dropped since those awful days, but there are still too many people, mainly young black men, whose lives end with bullets. Mr. Pollin understood the importance of symbols to educate and to inspire, and we would like to think that his leadership in calling attention to the scourge of gun violence might have helped in quelling some of the killing. To return to a name discredited by violence would send the wrong message.

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