“Save the Crew” takes on a whole different meaning. What used to be a mantra (and hashtag) to encourage support to stay Columbus Crew since moving to Austin, Texas, the phrase may now need to be revived to save the nickname “Crew” itself.
Columbus announced this on Monday rejects the word “Crew” as part of his official team name and replacing it with the utterly generic Columbus SC. The news met with immense anger among the crew’s most stubborn elements – it’s made up of Columbus ’fan base, which staged a protest at Crew Stadium on Monday, but the club still moved on.
“The current direction of our club and our city provides a natural time to examine our identity in the future,” crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “Our identity and brand evolution involves a change in our thinking of being consistent competitors on the field, but it also includes developing our appearance in the community and in all competitions. With the impending completion of our new, modern, dynamic stadium, our world – class OhioHealth Performance Center and from the MLS Cup championship, our ratings are aligned with where we are headed as a city and organization.We are proud to represent Columbus on the global football scene and strive to help elevate the city and honor it for what it has done for the club.We are Columbus Soccer Club, we are The Crew and we will always be Black & Gold. “
So let’s dive into this news by asking three key questions: Why is the team doing this, why are the fans furious, and why is the Crew’s name sacred?
Why is the team doing this?
To hear how Columbus’ organization describes it, the move refers to “raising Columbus” to a larger stage, as in the city itself. The timing also coincides with the opening of the new stadium of the team, which will take place later this summer, which makes it better to position the organization “locally and globally”. Rebrand is set up as an evolution, not as a complete overhaul.
But that explanation only calls for additional questions, and the biggest one is: Couldn’t the organization have done all those things and still keep the Crew as an official nickname? Columbus claims it is not giving up on the name entirely. The term “Crew” will be visible on and around the stadium. The official store will be called the “Crew Shop,” while food and beverage stalls in the space will be held under the name “Crew Kitchen”. Although Crew will no longer be in team jerseys, the organization will continue to sell hats and T-shirts with the name Crew on it, along with a logo that Crew now lacks.
“[The Crew name] “It’s not going anywhere,” Bezbatchenko said in an exclusive interview with ESPN. “If anything, it prevails.”
This is open to interpretation, although Bezbatchenko told ESPN that the rebranding effort was not carried out in a vacuum, with the focus of a group of 2,500 people that included fans and non-fans. What was taken home was the importance of black and gold and keeping the word “Crew” as part of what the team was doing.
The team quickly compares its approach with that of other clubs around the world. The official name of Monterrey from the MX League is “CF Monterrey, while his nickname is”Striped. “One club source also pointed out that what Columbus is doing is different from say Montreal, which abandoned its long-standing nickname“ Impact ”and is now run by Club de Foot Montreal.
None of this actually refers to the need to release the “Crew” as the team’s nickname. There is certainly a school of thought that will emphasize Columbus’s help in international attraction. But the presence of the nickname did not prevent teams in other American sports from becoming international brands.
Bezbatchenko objected that the terms “Crew” and “Columbus SC” were interchangeable and reiterated a desire to highlight the city’s name.
“When you had Columbus Crew SC, people really ignored Columbus,” Bezbatchenko said. “They talked about Crew SC. It was all Crew, and it was just part of our identity and what we wanted to be forward.”
Why are the fans angry?
There are two aspects: one relates to the process, the other to history. Let’s deal with the process first.
Bezbatchenko told ESPN that the impetus for the rebrand was a change of ownership in which the Haslam and Edwards families bought the team from previous owner Anthony Precourt. Bezbatchenko claims the working group consisted of some members of Save The Crew, First Day fans, as well as two members of Nordecke’s management informed where it was leading. But Columbus asked them to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) preventing them from sharing guidelines with other stakeholders. The news continued to leak.
Of course, there is a difference between informing people about what will happen and allowing them to cooperate in the process. To hear Nordecke describe it, the former script happened. In a statement posted on social media, Nordecke said that “neither Nordecke nor any group of crew fans have been involved in the conception, development or design of the rebrand at any time. The rebrand was only shown to the committee in the last few days and presented to us as finished. a product with no chance of entry. “
Earlier this year, Nordecke board members Charles Campisano and Jeff Barger were briefed on the proposed changes and submitted a report – a copy to ESPN – to Columbus, warning the team of what to expect in terms of fan reaction if they proceeded with the proposed rebranding without sufficient fan contribution. As for the name change, the report warned that the likely response to dropping the nickname “Crew” would be “negative to catastrophic.”
The report adds that “major parts of the rebrand basically trade in what is liked and recognized for components that will not be well received.” This includes the new logo, which has been criticized for being too generic and doing nothing to set the team apart in terms of branding. The report notes that in Ohio alone, there are seven other professional sports teams that include “C” in their logo or coat of arms.
Nevertheless, the Columbus organization has progressed, and it was only last Friday that supporters were informed of the details of the rebrand.
“Our understanding is what was presented to us:‘ This is happening ’, not that‘ this needs to be discussed, ’said Campisano, Nordecke’s chief adviser, who was present at the meeting.
The answer was above all negative. Campisano added that “There was little emotion” and confirmed the report in Columbus’ dispatch that one individual called Bezbatchenko a “traitor.”
Some of it comes down to Bezbatchenko’s previous statements. When news leaked in January 2020 that the team was considering a name and color change, he said to Columbus’s dispatch, “The colors Black & Gold and the nickname ‘The Crew’ are critical parts of our club’s identity and have been loved by supporters since 1996. … Discussions about the brand’s overall identity include critical fan feedback and any reports indicating a departure from the above stated by the Club would be incorrect. “
Now at least the name will change.
“It’s so pathetic,” said Morgan Hughes, who started #SaveTheCrew and was a spokesman for the group. “It’s just such an unnecessary own goal. What are they doing? The logo is pathetic, the name is pathetic. And when you combine the two, the mutual presence just makes the other one look worse.”
Why is the Crew’s name sacred?
MLS teams have long struggled to build ties with the local community, but Columbus has succeeded more than most. Some of it comes down to being one of the original MLS teams and the history that comes with it. But attachment to the nickname Crew intensified in 2017 when then-owner Precourt announced his intention to move the team to Austin, Texas.
The fan reaction was intense, steady and ultimately effective, with the #SaveTheCrew hashtag helping to boost widespread support on social media and elsewhere. Even then-Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine sued Precourt Sports Ventures, citing a Modell rule requiring teams receiving state funding to give six months’ notice of their intention to leave the country.
MLS, with considerable help from the city of Columbus, found a solution by which Precourt would acquire an expansion team that could house Austin, while the Haslam and Edwards families would take over the crew and thus keep the team in Columbus. This development was considered a victory not only for the fans in Columbus, but also for those in the fan groups from all over the league.
What’s disturbing is that at one point Precourt was thinking about changing the team’s name to … Columbus SC. He eventually opted for a less controversial rebrand – the official name was changed to Columbus Crew SC – but according to some fans, the name itself 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 to be a fitting tribute to the team, its fans and the new owners who made it possible. Now the damage is being done in relation to hardcore fans, the very heart and soul of the team. Efforts to keep the team in Columbus have been reduced, and some of the goodwill accumulated by the new owners is wasted.
“I hope the goodwill is not exhausted by the evolution of the brand, the revision of the logo,” Bezbatchenko said. “I think about all that [the new owners] advocated and done in the past two and a half years means more than the naming convention. I really know. “
Thefans will be the final arbiters.