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Red Jersey Symbol of Impending Flight from Jersey

The signs have all been there, subtle messages that the transition from New Jersey to Brooklyn had begun.

The words "New Jersey" were removed from the team stationary and other communications. The Nets big new ticket sales promotion should have been a giveaway as well. The Nets are offering early season ticket customers an autographed "alternate Red road jersey" that will be used starting next season. But the new road jersey was without, well, Jersey. Missing from the new jersey--and presumably the standard blue ones as well--was "New Jersey". The road uniform reads: "Nets".

Brandweek, the advertising trade journal, recently took note of the changes in a profile of Nets' CEO Brett Yormark reporting "Indeed, the franchise has taken "New Jersey" out of all communications and, via a sponsorship deal, is officially known as the Nets presented by Jackson Hewitt (the Parsippany, N.J.-based tax preparation firm)."

Similarly, in a profile for New Jersey Monthly, of all publications, the headline read, "Brett Yormark, president and CEO of the (don’t call them New Jersey) Nets, wants fans as passionate as the NASCAR faithful—never mind where the future leads."

Yormark even told Brooklyn sports writers the team may change its name from the Nets to something else, erasing the team's entire identity!

So is this the last time fans will see the words, "New Jersey" on any Net wear? And what about the "Nets"? Is this the end of the New Jersey Nets? And what will the new team name be?

Certainly, the Nets have been very careful not to drive their New Jersey fans away. Just the opposite.

Bruce Ratner is on the record--repeatedly--about how he is willing to spend money to insure success. The Continental Airlines Arena has been improved, dressed up in LED screens and All-Access lines. Game entertainment has been dramatically improved, with halftime and post game concerts and a new dance team that no less an authority than BHM Magazine called the "hottest" in the NBA. Celibrities--including that odd couple of Nets minority investors, hip hop empresario Jay-Z and mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark--are regularly in attendance. Hell, even Spike Lee made his way across the river, a refugee from that circus in Madison Square Garden. Ratner is regularly seen at home games and at "Influencer" parties throughout New Jersey to lure new season ticket-holders to the arena.

But the franchise has also opened its first ticket office in Midtown Manhattan, offered free rides from Manhattan on the NY Waterway and connecting buses, even distributed Nets' schedules in Penn Station, a few feet below the Knicks playing floor. Some might have seen that as a slap at the Knicks, but more than anything else, it was a first move toward building a fan base among rich Manhattanites who in a few years will be only a few more stops away from the Nets new arena than they are from the Garden. And the big prize, all those big bucks Wall Street types, will find themselves even closer to the Nets in Brooklyn than they will be to the Knicks in midtown.

So what will the team be called? The Brooklyn Nets? The New York Nets? A quick review of trademarks at the US Patent and Trademark Office would indicate those are the two choices. On March 4, 2004, shortly after the sale of the Nets to Ratner went through, the team's official owner, New Jersey Basketball, began filing applications for trademark rights to both the "Brooklyn Nets" and the "New York Nets". No other names have been trademarked by Ratner or any of the Ratner affiliated organizations that own part of the Nets...although that doesn't mean someone has registered the trademark and are holding it.

And yes, the Nets haven't given up the "New Jersey Nets" trademark, at least legally.