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Named after a mythical bird in a famous poem, the new NFL team in Baltimore became the Ravens "evermore" team on Friday, March 29, 1996.
"In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
...Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
-- Edgar Allan Poe, 1845
The naming process for the expansion Baltimore NFL team began in mid-February, as soon as owner and president Art Modell received permission from the league office to move his franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore. One of his first actions was to approach the Indianapolis organization about their mascot "Colts," but Indy team officials refused to part with the name.
After extensive research, exhaustive panel discussions, focus groups, and fan polling, the name Ravens continued to surface at the top of all lists. In the end, it truly was the Baltimore football fans who named their new team.
But the process took almost two months.
Art's son, David, then-assistant to the president, met with NFL Properties officials to discuss naming possibilities. The initial list was whittled down from several hundred to a mere 17.
"The first promise we made was that we'd bring this [naming the team] back to the fans in some way," said David. "That was important to us."
A focus group was selected by a research firm to start the call to action. The group consisted of three divisions, each representing Maryland-area residents. The age ranges were 25-35 and 35-45. One group consisted of casual fans, while the two others were strong NFL fans.
Each focus group member was required to answer a questionnaire and to listen to some play-by-play tapes using the different nicknames. The main group was then divided into six smaller groups and asked to rank their top five picks.
Two names appeared on all six lists: the Ravens and the Colts. The Ravens was listed first three times, the Colts twice, and the Bulldogs once.
The Modells took the process a step further by partnering with The Baltimore Sun to get more voters and host one more poll.
The Sun's finalists poll began on March 28 and lasted approximately 24 hours. The names on the ballot were: Ravens, Americans, Marauders, Mustangs and Railers. Each name was subjected to a random telephone poll.
On March 29, team officials gathered with then-Mayor Kurt Schmoke and former Governor Parris Glendening at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater in Baltimore to make the announcement:
The name Ravens was over the top.
The Baltimore Sun announced a record-breaking 33,748 callers telephoned their votes to Sundial, a then-popular feature of the newspaper where readers would interact and express their opinions. The tally: Ravens 22,463, Americans 5,635, and Marauders 5,650.
"The name Ravens won the Sundial poll, and the name tested very well," said David. "It's a strong nickname that is not common to teams at any level, and it means something historically to this community."
At noon, on Wednesday, June 5, the team announced its colors: black, purple and metallic gold. Ravens QB Vinny Testaverde, DE Rob Burnett and WR Michael Jackson, who were in attendance at the March naming event, were the first players to model the Ravens' uniforms at the Inner Harbor Gallery Mall.
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