Atlantic Cities

Team Name of the Day: The Denver Nuggets

Team Name of the Day: The Denver Nuggets
Flickr/d_herrera86

Here's something amusing to come out of Election Day: when Colorado became one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, it gave further weight to the double-entendre that is the name of the Denver basketball team. Lost amidst the "mile-high" headlines is the revelation of the now hilariously named Denver Nuggets. (Nugget, by the way, is a term for a clump of weed.)

Actually, the team name has been the subject of weed jokes for some time now. Supposedly, when the Nuggets visit the Portland Trailblazers, some fans hold up signs that say "Blaze those Nuggets."

But with Colorado conducting a ground-breaking experiment in drug policy, the significance of the name -- it refers to nuggets of gold, by the way, not weed, or chicken -- does tend to jump out.

Pot jokes aside, it recalls the dilemma of another professional sports team that found its name had taken on an unexpected and unsavory connotation: the Washington Bullets.

Owner Abe Pollin changed the name of the team back in the '90s, feeling that with the District's annual murder tally among the highest in the nation, a name invoking gun violence was in bad taste. Others suggested he may have had some financial motivation for a rebranding. In an ironic twist, a dozen years after the team was renamed the Wizards, star guard Gilbert Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton were suspended for openly brandishing handguns, at least one of them loaded, in the locker room after a game.

But as things to be associated with, innovative drug policy and gun violence are pretty far apart. No word out of Denver on the subject yet, but it seems that if team merch became symbolic of legalized weed, it could be good for sales, and good for the team.

Top image: Flickr/D_Herrera96

Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at The Atlantic Cities. He lives in New York. All posts »

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