Update: The Dispatch has confirmed the Crew is changing its name to Columbus SC, updating its crest, and plans to use “the Crew” as a nickname for the club.
The Columbus Crew found itself in a public-relations quagmire Sunday when the team’s new official name and primary logo were leaked by multiple media outlets and fans provided a swift blowback condemning the changes.
The Dispatch has confirmed that Columbus Crew SC will now be known as Columbus SC — or Columbus Soccer Club — with “the Crew” being a nickname that won’t appear on the official crest but will still be seen as a standalone name around the stadium and on merchandise.
Rumors had swirled on social media about a potential rebrand since late Friday after team president Tim Bezbatchenko, vice president of marketing Patrice Croci and other front-office staff informed the Nordecke supporters’ group of the soon-to-be-announced name and crest.
An image of the new primary logo, which The Dispatch confirmed through sources as authentic, leaked Sunday morning. The design is the shape of the Ohio flag with “Columbus” atop the image, “SC” at the bottom between the flag’s swallow tails and a large, blocky, white “C” on a black background in the middle of the flag.
The primary colors of black and gold are in the crest, but the yellow that has been synonymous with the Crew since its inception as the first team in Major League Soccer is less pronounced than the black and white.
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The team issued a statement through a spokesman Sunday afternoon in response to the speculation.
“Recently, images have surfaced depicting a new logo for Columbus Crew SC,” the statement read. “The Crew and the Black and Gold remain at our core, and we continue to embrace and respect our heritage while modernizing our marks as our club and the city of Columbus evolve. We look forward to revealing those in their entirety in the near future.”
Sources told The Dispatch the meeting with the Nordecke resulted in fierce opposition, shouting and one fan accusing Bezbatchenko of being a “traitor.”
Several members of Nordecke leadership did not attend Saturday’s MLS match against D.C. United, apparently under protest.
The prospect of the club dropping “Crew” from the name set off a swift backlash when The Dispatch reported in January 2020 that the team was considering changing its name and colors. Fans were quick to insist that any rebranding by the club must keep the black and gold and the name “Crew.”
At the time, Bezbatchenko responded by saying, “The colors Black & Gold and the moniker ‘The Crew’ are critical parts of our club’s identity and have been beloved by supporters since 1996. Discussions regarding overall brand identity include critical supporter feedback, and any reports suggesting a departure from the above by the club would be inaccurate.”
Fans confused by need for change
While some expressed an indifference or a positive reaction to the name and crest change on social media, the dominant theme of reactions from fans was one of confusion as to why the team felt like it had to make changes, as well as opposition to the removal of “Crew” from the official team name.
Morgan Hughes, who was the most visible leader of the Save The Crew movement that sprouted after former owner Anthony Precourt tried to move the club to Austin, Texas, in 2017, said it was probably smart for new management and the new ownership to think of a rebrand.
But, he added, removing the Crew from the name — even if it can be used as a nickname — was poor judgment in the eyes of the team’s most loyal supporters.
“We’re not Columbus SC, man. We’re the Crew,” Hughes said.
“This is going to get blowback from fans because this is 26 years of supporting the Crew, rooting for the Crew, saving the Crew. All those things have one thing in common: Crew,” Hughes added. “They may use the moniker in a loving way … at the end of the day they are changing the name of our team no matter what.”
There’s no date for the official release of the new name and logo, but The Dispatch was able to confirm a report by Massive Report that front-office members held a meeting after Saturday’s game in response to the reaction after supporters received a presentation.