Quality Logo Products surveyed respondents about their reactions to logos for teams in five major North American professional leagues…
- NFL — National Football League: 32 teams, including one in Canada.
- NBA — National Basketball Association: 30 teams, including one in Canada.
- MLB — Major League Baseball (National and American Leagues), 30 teams, including one in Canada.
- NHL — National Hockey League: 32 teams, including seven in Canada and one new expansion team in 2021, the Seattle Kraken.
- MLS — Major League Soccer: 27 teams, including three in Canada, and one new 2021 expansion team, Austin FC.
We asked respondents to our survey to set aside their feelings about the teams and focus solely on the logos. (It’s worth noting that one team logo that came up several times in our survey was changed after the survey was conducted: The Cleveland Indians announced a new name, the Cleveland Guardians, on July 23, 2021, along with new logos: a script “Guardians” logo, and a winged “fastball G” logo.)
According to respondents, these are the best and worst in sports logos.
Best Logos in American Sports
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks, founded in 1991 as an expansion team, were the only NHL team among our respondents’ 10 favorites, and they ranked right at the top, at No. 1. The team’s logo spotlights a vicious-looking shark against an inverted pyramid, snapping a hockey stick in two with its jagged teeth. The team colors are dark teal and black (the shark) and orange (the hockey stick and the shark’s very angry-looking eye). These sharks are clearly out for blood, and their savage, relentless look strikes just the right note.
The Jags, like the Sharks, are an expansion team from the ’90s, and they feature a similar color scheme of teal, black, and gold. It’s a palette that seems to resonate with fans, who also indicated the NFL’s best are doing something right: Four of the top five favorite logos are from the nation’s premier pro football league. The Jaguars’ mascot is a fierce, spotted big-cat head, open-mouthed and growling, with a teal tongue and eye. Not entirely realistic, but pretty darn cool, our survey found.
The Eagles actually have two logos: an eagle head bent downward, open-mouthed, as though diving to secure its prey, and the wing that appears on either side of the team’s helmet. The eagle is the picture of concentration, epitomizing the “eagle eye,” and both logos are white with silver accents, outlined by the dark, rich colors of midnight green and black. The Eagles are one of the NFL’s veteran franchises, dating back to 1933 when the NFL awarded the bankrupt Frankford Yellow Jackets (named for a neighborhood in Philly) to new owners.
The Ravens’ name was inspired by former Baltimore resident Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem, “The Raven.” And true to Poe’s nature, their colors are dark: deep purple, black as a raven’s feathers, and metallic gold. Their logo is a purple raven’s head with black accents and a red eye, outlined in gold, with a gold “B” written on the side. The Ravens filled a void created a dozen years earlier when the Baltimore Colts departed for Indianapolis in 1984. In the interim, Baltimore had champions in two other leagues. The Baltimore Stars won the United States Football League championship in 1985, and a Baltimore team called the Stallions actually played for two seasons in the Canadian Football League, becoming the only U.S.-based team ever to win that league’s championship, in 1995, a year before the Ravens were founded. But none of those teams’ logos were as cool as the Ravens’.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Another NFL team rounds out the top five: the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Their skull-and-crossbones logo backed by crossed swords isn’t exactly original: It’s somewhat similar to the design employed by the Las Vegas Raiders, who use the crossed swords, too, but as a backdrop to an eye-patch-wearing, helmeted football player. The Raiders’ logo is older, but respondents preferred the Bucs’ sleeker, more sinister look, against the backdrop of a tattered deep-red flag flying from a brandished sword. It’s a far cry from the original “Bucco Bruce” logo used from the team’s inception in 1976 until 1997: A pastel orange Buccaneer head with a dagger in his mouth and a feather on top of his jaunty hat.
Worst Logos in American Sports
Washington Football Team
The Washington Football Team went from a Native American logo (which offended so many people the team finally discarded it) to a bland logo featuring their name against a white background. And that’s not even on their helmets: The helmets simply feature each player’s individual number, also in gold. The only less creative helmet logo in the NFL is probably the Cleveland Browns’ logo-less plain orange model, but at least that has a tradition on its side. On a positive note, the team plans to announce a new name in 2022, but as of this writing, it hadn’t ruled out simply sticking with the Washington Football Team, or WFT for short.
The team, like the Washington Football Team, is discarding its Native American-influenced name, in this case after more than a century. The team was founded as the Grand Rapids Rustlers of the Western League in 1894 and rechristened the Cleveland Lake Shores when it moved to Cleveland and the league became a major league under a new name of its own: the American League. The team was called the Bluebirds (or Blues for short) and, unofficially, the Broncos in the early 1900s. Then, when star infielder Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie joined the team in 1902, they became the Naps until he left in 1914. At that point, the team became the Indians in honor of a Native American named Louis Sockalexis, who’d played for the by-then-defunct National League Cleveland Spiders in the late 19th century.
The grinning, red-faced “Chief Wahoo” cartoon logo was used from 1951 to 2018 before being discarded as offensive, and the team — which then adopted a simple block “C” — announced a name change to “Guardians” on July 23, 2021. Considering the results of our survey, most respondents are probably breathing a sigh of relief.
The Nashville Soccer Club’s blue and bright yellow “N” logo, broken and seemingly “echoing” into the background, is enough to give you a headache or even make you dizzy. It looks like a cross between the front of a train engine and an angular test pattern from the early days of TV. The team was only founded in 2017, so perhaps this logo is still in the trial-and-error phase. Our respondents can only hope.
There’s nothing exactly wrong with the gold, old-fashioned “P” logo; it’s just not particularly original. The team has been around since 1881 when it was known as the “Alleghenys.” In 1890, they swiped a player away from the protesting Philadelphia Athletics, who labeled the move an act of piracy. The Pittsburgh ball club began wearing the name “Pirates” as a badge of honor the following season.
Portland Trail Blazers
What is that logo supposed to represent, anyway? Evidently, it’s a pinwheel, but the five lines on each side of it (one side red and one white, separated by black), are supposed to represent basketball players in motion — not that anyone would know this without looking it up. The logo’s been in place since the team was founded in 1970, although it’s undergone some subtle changes. It may not make you as dizzy as the Nashville FC logo, but it might come close.
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