Capital News Service has published a fantastic oral history of the Baltimore Stallions, the city’s Canadian Football League franchise for two glorious years in the mid-1990s.
Stallions fans know, of course, that the team name was supposed to be another horse more synonymous with Baltimore football. As owner Jim Speros told CNS:
A lot of people came up with some great names for the team, the Sharks, they wanted to call them the Bombers… I thought maybe something horse related would be good…I was getting ready to name the team right from the beginning Stallions… John [Steadman, legendary Baltimore sportswriter] walked into my office in April 1994… He says, “If you don’t name this team the Colts you’re gonna fail miserably, because I know this town, I know this city, I know football, and you’re not gonna survive here.”
Speros said the CFL Colts quickly sold 13,000 season tickets and just as quickly was slapped with a lawsuit by the National Football League for trademark infringement just before Opening Day in 1994.
“The NFL did me the biggest favor in the world because this became national news for six months,” Speros said.
A cease-and-desist order while the litigation was pending forced the Baltimore team’s front office to black out the word “Colts” on the field, on memorabilia and in programs before its first home game.
Baltimore’s team was known as the “CFLs” for the rest of its inaugural season. (I’m pretty sure my dad still has a sweatshirt like the one pictured above.) By the end of ’94, Speros had almost used up $500,000 worth of pro bono law firm services. A fan vote prior to the 1995 selected “Stallions” as the team’s new moniker. The Stallions would go on to win the Grey Cup, the CFL’s Super Bowl, before relocating to Montreal once the Ravens came to Charm City.
“We never lost the case, but the fact was the NFL can just wear you out financially,” Speros said of the team name lawsuit. “They couldn’t believe that I had a law firm doing pro bono and fighting this thing.”