Why Columbus has angered followers after dropping ‘Crew’ from its title

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“Save the Crew” takes on a completely different meaning. What was once a mantra (and a hashtag) to galvanize support to keep that going Columbus crew After moving to Austin, Texas, the phrase may need to be revived to save the crew’s nickname itself.

The Columbus Organization announced this on Monday It drops the word crew as part of its official team name and replace it with the absolutely generic Columbus SC. The news was met with immense anger by the most stubborn elements of the crew – make those Columbus fan base – who organized a protest at Crew Stadium on Monday, but the club pushed ahead nonetheless.

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“The current orientation of our club and our city offers a natural time to verify our identities in the future,” Tim Bezbatchenko, president and general manager of the crew, said in a statement. “Our identity and brand development involves changing the way we think to be consistent competitors on the pitch, but also evolving our looks both in the community and across competitions. With the imminent completion of our new, modern, dynamic stadium, ours will be World- In the OhioHealth Performance Center class and after an MLS Cup championship, our grades are focused on where we are going as a city and as an organization. We pride ourselves on representing Columbus on the global stage of football and striving to Elevating the City and the Glory It’s what it did for the club. We are the Columbus Soccer Club, we are the crew and we will always be the Black & Gold. “

Let’s dive into this news by asking three key questions: why is the team doing this, why are the fans crazy, and why is the crew’s name sacred?

Why is the team doing this?

To hear how the Columbus Organization describes it, it’s about elevating Columbus to a bigger stage, like in the city itself. The timing is also supposed to be with the opening of the team’s new $ 313.9 million stadium coincide, which is to take place later this summer in order to better position the organization “locally and globally”. The rebranding is conceived as a further development rather than a complete overhaul.

But that statement just begs more questions, the biggest is: Couldn’t the organization do all of these things and still keep the crew as an official nickname? The Columbus Organization claims they are not dropping the name entirely. The term “crew” will be visible in and around the stadium. The official store is called the Crew Shop, while the food and beverage stalls in the venue are called Crew Kitchen. While the crew will no longer be on the team’s jerseys, the organization will continue to sell hats and t-shirts with the crew’s name in addition to the now crew-free logo.

“”[The Crew name] is not going anywhere, “said Bezbatchenko in an exclusive interview with ESPN.

That’s open to interpretation, although Bezbatchenko told ESPN that the rebranding wasn’t done in a vacuum, with a focus group of 2,500 participants, including fans and non-fans. What drove home was the meaning of the colors black and gold and keeping the word “crew” as part of what the team is doing.

The team quickly compares its approach to that of other clubs around the world. The official name of the Monterrey League MX team is “CF Monterrey” while the nickname is “Rayados”. A club source also pointed out that what Columbus does is different from, say, Montreal, which has given up its long-standing nickname “Impact” and is now from Club de Foot Montreal.

None of this really speaks to the need to remove the “crew” as the team’s nickname. Surely there is a school of thought that will support the Columbus emphasis on international appeal. But the presence of a nickname hasn’t stopped teams in other American sports from becoming international brands.

Bezbatchenko countered that the terms “The Crew” and “Columbus SC” were interchangeable and repeated the wish to highlight the city’s name.

“When you had Columbus Crew SC, people really ignored Columbus,” said Bezbatchenko. “They talked about Crew SC. Everything was crew, and that was just part of who we were and what we wanted to be in the future.”

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Why are the fans crazy?

There are two aspects to this: one is the process, the other is the story. Let’s tackle the process first.

Bezbatchenko told ESPN that the rebranding was triggered by the change in ownership, in which the Haslam and Edwards families bought the team from previous owner Anthony Precourt. Bezbatchenko claims that a task force made up (partially) of members of the Save The Crew, “Day One” fans and two members of the Nordecke support group leadership has been informed where this is going. However, the Columbus Organization asked them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) preventing them from sharing direction with other stakeholders. The news has still been leaked.

Of course, there is a difference between letting people know what is going to happen and being able to participate in the process. To hear how the north corner describes it, the first scenario took place. In a statement published on social media, Die Nordecke said: “Neither the Nordecke nor a Crew Supporters Group were involved in the conception, development or design of the rebranding at any time. The board was only shown the rebranding in the last few days and it was done presented to us as a finished product with no input option. “

Earlier this year, Nordecke’s board members Charles Campisano and Jeff Barger were made aware of the proposed changes and a report was presented to the Columbus Organization, a copy of which was obtained from ESPN, to warn the team of what to expect could create conditions for fan reaction if they carry out the proposed rebranding without sufficient input from fans. Regarding the name change, the report warned that the likely response to deleting the “Crew” moniker would be “negative to catastrophic”.

12TH OF MAY
• • Toronto v Columbus (7pm ET)
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The report added that “large chunks of rebranding are essentially exchanging what is popular and recognized for components that are not well received”. That includes the new logo, which has been criticized for being too generic and doesn’t set the team apart in terms of branding. The report finds that there are seven other professional sports teams in Ohio alone that include a “C” in their logo or crest.

Yet the Columbus Organization made progress, and it wasn’t until last Friday that supporters were informed of the details of the rebranding.

“Our understanding is what we were presented with was ‘This is happening’, not that ‘This is up for discussion’,” said Campisano, the General Counsel of North Corner, who was present at the meeting.

The response was mostly negative. Campisano added that “there was some emotion” and confirmed a report in the Columbus shipping this one person called Bezbatchenko “a traitor”.

Part of this can be traced back to Bezbatchenko’s earlier statements. When it was announced in January 2020 that the team was considering changing the name and colors, he told the Columbus Dispatch, “The colors Black & Gold and the nickname ‘The Crew’ are an integral part of our club’s identity and have been loved by fans since 1996 that would be imprecise above.”

Now at least the name change comes about.

“It’s just so lame,” said Morgan Hughes, who founded #SaveTheCrew and was the group’s spokesperson. “It’s just such an unnecessary own goal. What are you doing? The logo is lame, the name is lame. And when you combine those two, the other’s presence only makes the other look worse.”

Two years after the crew was rescued, the club owners decided to delete the crew’s name. Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Why is the name of the crew sacred?

MLS teams have long struggled to connect with the local community, but Columbus has succeeded more than most. Part of this is because it was one of the original teams at MLS and the history that goes with it. However, ties to the crew’s nickname strengthened in 2017 when then-owner Precourt announced its intention to relocate the team to Austin, Texas.

The backlash from fans was intense, lasting and ultimately effective. The hashtag #SaveTheCrew helped drive widespread support on social media and elsewhere. Even then Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine stepped in, suing Precourt Sports Ventures, citing the model rule that teams receiving government funding must be given six months’ notice of their intention to leave.

MLS, with considerable help from the City of Columbus, found a solution whereby Precourt would acquire an expansion team to place in Austin while the Haslam and Edwards families would take over the crew, keeping the team in Columbus. This development was seen as a victory not only for fans in Columbus, but also for fans in support groups from across the league.

Adding to the fear is that at some point Precourt considered changing the team name to … Columbus SC. He eventually opted for a less controversial rebrand – the official name was changed to Columbus Crew SC – but some fans say the name is poisonous given the former owner’s attempts to relocate the team.

When the crew prevailed in the MLS Cup final last December, it seemed like a fitting tribute to a team, its fans and the new owners who made it possible. Now the relationship with hardcore fans, the heart and soul of the team, is damaged. Efforts to keep the team in Columbus have been lessened and some of the goodwill accumulated by the new owners is being wasted.

“I hope that the good will in a brand development, a revision of a logo, is not exhausted,” said Bezbatchenko. “I think for all of that [the new owners] stood for and has done for the past two and a half years means more than a naming convention. I really do. “

The fans will be the ultimate referees.