Ottawa Red Blacks: An Appeal To Jeff Hunt & Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group (OSEG)

Addendum! (March 15, 2013)

A reprint of this blog went up on the Ottawa Lansdowne Park website!

Addendum! (February 12, 2013)

After much additional Red Blacks discussion on Twitter, and being successful with the majority of correspondents in explaining the rationale for Ottawa Red Blacks (not Red and Blacks, not Redblacks, not RedBlacks, see below) the conversation turned to French, and I found myself in less familiar waters.

With a great deal of assistance from francophones near and far (the internet still amazes me in that way) I’m as confident as I can be in stating that the French name for the team should be Rouge et Noir. I’ll bet back to the French in a moment. First, some points that are bound to be raised about the name in English.

I fully realize that the direct translation from French to English indicates two different names. That is because English and French are different. I live in Vanier, so trust me, it’s about 1 in a 100000 that there is a direct translation with the same number of words (generally, it takes more words in French to communicate the same meaning, but then, perhaps that’s why like many people I find French to be more expressive).

In English we frequently omit words that are “understood” and we also pluralize words in names in ways that are not commonly done in French, for example: to change their original meaning and indicate that the name references a team. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are named after Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber. But there is more than one “bomber” on a football team, thus, they are the “Bombers.”

And so it is with Red Blacks. The team is being named for the old jersey colours that featured red and black. When changed to a team name, the “and” becomes understood, and the “black” gets pluralized. Thus, Ottawa Red [and] Blacks: Ottawa Red Blacks. Just like the famous All Blacks rugby team. Calling them the All In Black would seem weird, wouldn’t it? So we drop the “in” which becomes understood, and we add the “s” to indicate that it is a team.

So why would it be Rouge et Noir in French? The short answer is, that’s just how it’s done. When the French media writes about the Detroit Red Wings, it’s “Red Wings de Détroit.” But plenty of football examples about. For those who think Rouge et Noir might be a mouthful, it seems to me it’s easier than Rouge et Or (Laval University, hosts of Vanier Cup 2013). But maybe that’s because I’m not a natural French speaker. But the point stands: in English we omit the “and” while in French the “et” is a must! We pluralize to indicate it is a team, whereas this convention is not used in French.

If you identify primarily as English, don’t worry about the French name. You’ll be cheering for the Ottawa Red Blacks. If you identify primarily as French, don’t worry about the English name. You’ll be cheering for the Rouge et Noire.

I have challenged English speakers who react negatively to Red Blacks to try chanting the name as if they were at a game. Most will admit that it sounds cool! I’ve had the same reaction from francophone friends, who tend to be even more enthusiastic about Rouge et Noir.

So, I hope that answers all the new naming questions, now all we need is for someone to make the names official!


Based on the recent chat with Jeff Hunt of OSEG, it seems pretty clear that the hunt (no pun intended) for a team name is over.

Ottawa Red Blacks it is!

There is plenty of rationale for the name, including of course a historic tip of the hat to the Ottawa Rough Riders team colours, and it brings to mind the world famous New Zealand All Blacks (men’s national rugby union team). And, it is definitely original. Yes, if you search hard enough, you’ll find a soccer team in Italy and maybe a ringetteottawa-red-blacks team in Calgary (former is true, latter unknown). But it is a unique name, and Mr. Hunt has said all along that this was important.

I’m not here to argue about the name, just how it is going to be rolled out. I’ve seen Red Blacks, Redblacks, Red-Blacks, and even RedBlacks. I got into a fairly extensive twitter discussion about this with other fans, and it’s gone on for several days. I’m not a sports marketing professional, but I do have an MA in Linguistics and Applied Language Studies (they call it Discourse Studies these days) and a professional certificate in marketing from the Sprott School of Business, plus many years of practical marketing experience. And, of course, I am a lifelong CFL and Ottawa CFL football fan.

I realize those are not exhaustive credentials and Jeff Hunt is in a marketing league way above my own, but nevertheless, I urge you Mr. Hunt, the name is creative enough. There is no need for creative spelling.

Ottawa Red Blacks. Just like New Zealand All Blacks. Detroit Red Wings. Ottawa Rough Riders. There’s no need or real logic (marketing or grammatical) for combining into one made-up word, or inserting a hyphen.

In grammatical terms, we all know the name is Ottawa Red [and] Blacks. The “and” is understood and is appropriately represented by…nothing at all!

I wholeheartedly agree with the Jeff Hunt chat comment that Ottawa Red And Blacks is too cumbersome. Definitely. So leave out the “and” (let it operate as an “understood”) and let’s keep it simple.

I’ve been warming up to Ottawa Red Blacks quickly (after first reacting with some astonishment). I think it does sound a bit like a rugby or even a soccer name, but so what? It makes me think of those sports because I can picture hundreds of thousands of fans with cool jerseys, chanting and cheering for their home club.

I think I’m not alone with my rapidly changing sentiments (trending positive) but I do think feeling the need to fiddle with the name too much will be poorly received. Of course nobody is going to refuse to attend a game because you get overly creative with spelling, but if the marketing gurus are pushing for additional creativity by messing around with the letters, maybe just remind them…the name is already extremely original, and there’s absolutely nothing left to prove.

Let’s go Red Blacks!

(Try it to the rhythm of the “Let’s Go Red Wings” chant, very cool. Try it…chant with the crowd and say “Blacks” instead of “Wings.” Great eh? We’ll come up with our own chant of course, but there’s no doubt we are going to have fun with Ottawa Red Blacks).

About Keenan Wellar

Keenan is a citizen of Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) and co-leader of a social change and community benefit organization,, a registered charity which helps the community welcome and include people with intellectual disabilities, autistic persons, and individuals with a dual diagnosis to live, work, and play as valued citizens. LiveWorkPlay was named Ottawa's Best Non-Profit of 2019 by the Ottawa Board of Trade and Ottawa Business Journal "Best Ottawa Business Awards " With Julie Kingstone, Keenan is co-owner of Wellstone Leadership Services, dedicated to supporting a culture of excellence for non-profit, private sector, government organizations, collaborations, and partnerships. Keenan is a founding member of the leadership group for the From Presence To Citizenship collaborative. Keenan is a regular guest (monthly) of the News 1310 Power Lunch radio show, and he writes the monthly NPQ North column for Nonprofit Quarterly. When not working and supporting various social causes, Keenan loves kayaking and wildlife photography, cheering for the Ottawa RedBlacks and Pittsburgh Steelers, and causing a disturbance on social media.
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