By Perry Green, AFRO Sports Editor
The Washington Wizards’ new NBA G League team, the Capital City Go-Go, launched its inaugural season, Nov. 3, in a game against the Greensboro Swarm in D.C.’s New Entertainment and Sports Arena located in Congress Heights, D.C.
The Go-Go is one of the latest teams added to the NBA’s revamped minor league basketball farm system. Once known as the NBA D-League (Developmental League), the NBA changed the name to G League in 2017, once Gatorade became the title sponsor, and expanded the league to 28 teams, with Capital City as the latest installment.
Wizards’ ownership announced Capital City Go-Go’s name and unveiled its logo last year. The team is named after the music genre, go-go, which was created during the 1960’s in D.C. The team’s logo even features an illustration of congas, a key instrument used to create the sound unique to the district.
Ted Leonsis, the principal owner of the Wizards, said he wanted to pay homage to go-go’s rich history and culture, which is why he named his new G League after the music genre. He told NBC Sports Washington that the Wizards even reached out to the residents of the city, particularly in Congress Heights, where the team would be playing, to get their opinion on using the name.
“It just was a name that we wanted to be respectful [with],” Leonsis said, per NBC Sports. “We went into the community and asked fans, asked people who would be our neighbors, did they think this was an appropriate homage to music that we kind of grew up with, music that we felt good about.
The bongo sound, the percussion sound is very, very natural to our city.”
Kennie Lee, a Go-Go musician for the legendary Junkyard Band, told Bleacher Report that the Capital City team being named after Go-Go is proof that the culture is finally getting the praise and recognition that its deserves.
“I think I feel much better because we’re finally getting the proper recognition that it needs,” Lee said, according to Bleacher Report. “When the basketball team plays in different arenas, people will always be curious about what is Go-Go. Whenever they come to the city, they can find out places where Go-Go is played and see where the name comes from.”
But some are questioning whether the team’s name is really showing appreciation for Go-Go, or just appropriating it?
Bleacher Report Magazine writer Master Tesfatsion penned an article entitled, “Who Owns Go-Go,” and noted how D.C.’s Go-Go subculture—which was created by Black musicians, was once “gutted by the White establishment,” but now is being monetized by a pro basketball team owned by White people in a city that’s currently being gentrified.
“In the late 1980s, Go-Go became associated with violence that plagued the nation’s capital. D.C. was known as the “murder capital” between 1988 and 1992. Some of these murders occurred at Go-Go clubs, and D.C. politicians blamed the music for the rise in violence. The music was the scapegoat for socioeconomic problems in the district,” wrote Tesfatsion, who pointed out how both the D.C. and Prince George’s County official had testified back in 2005 to shut down Go-Go venues.
“District authorities worked to close the most popular Go-Go clubs, which stunted the movement and erased an economy benefiting working-class Black residents who were club owners, musicians, promoters and bartenders,” Tesfatsion wrote. “That Go-Go was effectively gutted by the District’s police force and policymakers serves as testimony that it was never loved, or taken seriously, by White D.C. With that history, what would it mean for the District to properly honor it?”