While the Baltimore Ravens helmet has a short history spanning 24 years, it’s definitely an interesting one. Today, I’m going to fill you all in on the story of the team that abandoned the City of Cleveland for supposedly greener pastures in Baltimore, so I need to bust one myth right off the bat.
A Truth in the Matter
The Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens DO NOT share a history and the Browns franchise that was resurrected in 1999 as a result of the original team moving to Baltimore in 1996 is the same franchise that was founded in 1944, to begin play in 1946.
When the City of Cleveland sued the NFL over former owner Art Modell’s breach of contract in moving the team to Baltimore, Modell agreed to relinquish the Browns’ name, colors, and history behind in Cleveland so a new Browns team could form a few years down the road. Thus, the Baltimore Ravens were technically founded in 1996, simply using the former players and personnel of the old Cleveland Browns.
Therefore, the Cleveland Browns helmet IS NOT part of the Ravens’ helmet history and any blog that states otherwise has not done enough research. As I’m a Browns fan, you can definitely trust me more on this painful subject, having studied the histories of both teams back to front.
However, this only bodes for the Browns and Ravens, so teams like the Tennessee Titans and Houston Oilers will be considered to have the same history, whereas the Titans played as the Oilers between 1960-1996, as well as the Tennessee Oilers in 1997 and 1998.
Now that there’s some clarification out of the way, I’ll start the Ravens’ history at 1996, the year the team first moved to, or started, in Baltimore.
The Original Helmet
The Ravens’ original helmet consisted of a gold shield with a stylized letter ‘B’ written in black with two raven wings protruding from the top of the shield. The wordmark Ravens appeared at the top of the shield as well.
This helmet was used through the Ravens’ inaugural season in 1996 through 1998. However, an amateur artist named Frederick Bouchat submitted a draft of the design to the Maryland Stadium Authority upon learning about the city acquiring an NFL team for the first time since they lost their beloved Colts in 1984.
When the team selected a logo based on the one Bouchat sketched, he was not awarded credit and sued the team. Therefore, the court ruled in favor of Bouchat and while he received next to nothing in damages, the Ravens were forced to change their logo.
The New Helmet
The new and current helmet debuted in 1999, featuring a purple raven’s head with a ‘B’ written in gold and in the center. This logo has since won two Super Bowls and has become synonymous with success, as the Ravens have seen far more ups than downs since 1999.
While the logo has drawn criticisms from other NFL fan bases due to its cartoonish, outdated look, it remains hot among the Baltimore Ravens’ fan base.
I’ve always advocated for the Ravens to change or at least update the current logo. When the team debuted in 1996, I was a fan of the logo despite being a fan of the old Browns. Sadly, the old helmet and logo will never return but hopefully a new logo will be in the works soon.
I’d love to see a more realistic raven and preferably without the ‘B.’ Something fiercer would be a good move, too, and perhaps more emphasis on the color black over purple, which will provide the team a more intimidating look.
While there are no plans to change the helmet or logo at the present time, the twenty-four-year-old franchise is still looking for an identity as iconic as the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose helmet and logo hasn’t changed since the 1960s except for the gray facemask, which changed in 1978, or the Cleveland Browns, whose logoless helmet stood the test of time and NFL pressure during the 1960s.
Then there are the Cincinnati Bengals, whose tiger-striped look has since become synonymous with the team over the past thirty-eight seasons.
For these reasons, the Ravens are still the odd team out, which becomes even more coupled due to the city’s former love affair with the Colts, and the Canadian Football League’s ill-fated expansion into Baltimore wished to continue the Colts’ tradition. However, the NFL sued when the CFL initially named the team the Baltimore CFL Colts, changing the name to the Stallions despite fans still calling the team the Colts. The Stallions went as far adopting a similar color scheme as the Colts, only adding silver.
The Colts’ tradition lasted into the 1990s, and there have even been rumors that the City even lobbied to gain the Colts’ name for the Baltimore Bombers, a proposed 1995 expansion team. However, the name Ravens was a hot name as well, winning the popular vote despite ownership believing the team would have a helmet logo too much like the Atlanta Falcons.
It’s definitely safe to say the Ravens’ only resemblance to the Falcons is the black helmet, and perhaps it explains why the team has decided on adopting purple and gold helmet logos throughout its existence instead of black, which is the true color of the raven.
It will be interesting to see if the team decides to go in a new direction but since the current helmet and entire uniform as seen two Super Bowl Championships plus numerous division titles and playoff runs, it might be tough to convince a passionate fan base that has been through a lot that the Ravens are need of a makeover.
Yet for us traditionalists, we’d love to see what a more traditional Ravens’ helmet and uniform might look like someday and until such speculation becomes a reality, we can only wonder.
There’s an interesting history in Baltimore regarding team names and even tradition, and it’ll be even more interesting if the Ravens ever decided to move in that direction.