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ESPN's long-anticipated 'The Last Dance' Chicago Bulls documentary edits the team name 'Washington Bullets' out of existence


A nod to the anti-gun lobby?

Mike Powelll/Allsport

In the absence of real sports due to the coronavirus pandemic, sports programming networks like ESPN have been forced to get creative with their programming, and sports fans have been left to starve for actual sports programming. All of this has combined to make ESPN's documentary series about the 1990s Chicago Bulls — who won six NBA titles with larger than life names like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson — one of the most anticipated sports programs of the year.

ESPN released the first two parts of the documentary last night to generally positive reviews, but some users noted an oddity. When displaying what appeared to be an original copy of the NBA Eastern Conference standings for 1986, ESPN flashed a graphic showing that the "Washington Wizards" were in sixth place.

However, there was no such team as the "Washington Wizards" in 1986 — at the time, the team was known as the "Washington Bullets," which was the team name from 1974-1997 (prior to that, they were known as the Capital Bullets and prior to that, the Baltimore Bullets).

The team's name was changed in 1997 after team owner Abe Pollin declared that the nickname "Bullets" had unwelcome associations with "street violence," and that it was not appropriate for a team based in D.C., which had a high gun homicide rate at the time.

The sports media at the time widely praised Pollin's move, predictably lamenting the scourge of "gun violence" in America and pretending, in their usual fashion, that bullets all on their own were mysteriously killing people. When Pollin died in 2009, most of his media eulogies specifically praised him for having struck a blow against guns by changing the name of the sports team he owned.

But the fact remains that, in 1986, the team's name was unquestionably NOT the Wizards, but instead was the Washington Bullets. Apparently, however, the mere word "Bullets" was so offensive that ESPN edited the historical record of their documentary to remove it.

Michael Jordan would end up playing the final years of his career with the Washington Wizards franchise, after their name change.

ESPN did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the reason for this change.

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