For nearly 20 years, the Kannapolis Intimidators — the Class A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox — paid homage to professional racing legend Dale Earnhardt by donning his iconic Intimidator nickname. But, according to a press release from February 2019, the minor league baseball team located right where Earnhardt was born and raised decided to completely rebrand.
“Today the team launches its ‘Branded New By You’ campaign and is asking community members to suggest names to help define the team?s new identity,” the team announced in an official press release. “In addition to a new name, the rebrand will include a new logo and mascot. The new identity will debut after the 2019 season ends.”
Not all that shockingly, the announcement of the name change was not too warmly received, especially by members of the Earnhardt family and the NASCAR community.
According to the team’s Assistant General Manager Vince Marcucci, the decision to change the name was tied to the team moving to a new ballpark in the city of Kannapolis. It also had to do with the fact that Dale Sr.’s widow, Teresa Earnhardt, owned the naming rights.
“I think millions of people are still Earnhardt fans,” Marcucci told NBC Sports. “But that?s his legacy. Not as much ours, you know? It?s just kind of creating a name that embraces the community for who they are now and who they?re going to be and who they?ve been.”
“You know it probably as well as I do that so many people are moving to this community from all over the country. It really is a melting pot of our entire country kind of migrating towards the Carolinas. I think we?ve seen over the past couple of years a lot of our fans have kind of been diversified away from NASCAR as well.”
“But I think that?s the state of North Carolina as a whole.”
Previously named the Piedmont Boll Weevils, the Piedmont Phillies, and the Spartanburg Phillies, the Kannapolis Intimidators — now the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers — got their most famous name during the 2000 season, after Dale Earnhardt bought a share in the team’s ownership. Shortly after, Earnhardt was tragically killed at the 2001 Daytona 500. On May 15, 2002, the team officially retired the number 3 in honor of Earnhardt’s No. 3 car.
Formerly in the South Atlantic League, the Cannon Ballers now play their home games at Atrium Health Ballpark in downtown Kannapolis.
This post was originally published on February 7, 2019.