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How did the New England Patriots get their name? Origin and meaning

With a nod to the American Revolution and a tribute to the surrounding area, one of the most famous teams in NFL history was born.

How did the New England Patriots get their name? Origin and meaning
Jeff BottariGetty

The New England team is one of the most famous and recognizable teams in the NFL, however, they have not always carried that named. Indeed, up to 1971 they were actually known as the Boston Patriots, but following an identity crisis, they became the team we know today.

Why did the Patriots change their name?

From Boston to New England

After an 11-year break without northeast representation in the AFL, it was announced on November 16th, 1959, that professional football would return to the northeast. Having said this, the AFL awarded its final franchise to Boston businessman Billy Sullivan. Being a shrewd one at that, Sullivan was well aware that branding was the most important thing for the franchise. So, with the clear idea that he wanted a catchy name for the team, the new owner initiated a campaign to search for the best name while simultaneously marketing the new team.

A contest gave the Patriots their name

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before a combination of contests for fans and essays for children returned the initial name: Boston Patriots. According to Bob Hyldburg at the time, 74 people who were promised free tickets for one of the team’s home games, submitted their ideas for names. From the resulting 74 names, three names were selected as finalists with the help of the children’s essays: Minuteman, Bulls and obviously, Patriots. Then, on February 20th, 1960 the AFL released an official announcement of its last franchise: the Boston Patriots.

Why call the team the “Patriots?”

Originally located in Boston, the team was named the Patriots because of the area’s heritage as the birthplace of the American Revolution.

Why New England?

At the beginning of the 1970s AFL and NFL merged placing the Boston Patriots in the East division. Taking into account that the Boston Patriots didn’t have a regular home stadium, which caused them to bounce from site to site, as well as a general lack of interest in professional football in the Boston area, the team took the decision to move to Foxborough.

“They were to play in the old AFL and when they moved out to Foxborough they were really trying to broaden their reach and become a regional team,” NFL historian Joe Horrigan said. “At the time most football fans in that area actually supported the NFL’s New York Giants.” Of course, it was fairly obvious to see that a change in name would be required and as such the New England tag was the obvious option. Interestingly, there was also another name that was considered and that was the Bay State Patriots. Stemming from Massachusetts’ official nickname - the bay state - club owners came close, but ultimately the fear of rival fans calling them the B.S. Patriots i.e., ‘Bullsh*t’ Patriots, led to the idea being dropped. With that, the story of the team that would eventually build a dynasty was born, the New England Patriots.


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