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Which W: Walgreens Or Washington?


If you've been to Washington, D.C., you might've noticed people wearing what appears to be Walgreens hats. Well, not really. The city's baseball team, the Washington Nationals, has a curly W logo that's remarkably similar to the drugstore chain's. And as Ally Schweitzer from member station WAMU discovered after a visit to Nationals Park, the trademark is still causing confusion 14 years after the team rolled it out.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Ice cold water, $2.

ALLY SCHWEITZER, BYLINE: I'm outside the ballpark in D.C. asking game goers if they can distinguish between the Nationals logo and the Walgreens logo. I thought, if anyone could tell the difference, it would be Nationals fans. Turns out, I was wrong. I showed Northern Virginia resident Sean Barnett the logos side by side.

Can you tell what this is?

SEAN BARNETT: Washington Nationals.



SCHWEITZER: That's the Washington Nationals. What is this?

BARNETT: Oh, is that Walgreens?


BARNETT: Oh, very close.

SCHWEITZER: Most fans I spoke to correctly identified the logos, but Barnett was among several who did not. When my colleague Sasha-Ann Simons asked Washingtonian Rich Jensen which one was which, he was also stumped.

RICH JENSEN: I can tell that one is for Walgreens and one is for the Nationals, but I couldn't tell you which is which.

SASHA-ANN SIMONS, BYLINE: And you say this as you're wearing a Nationals cap on your head. I love this.

JENSEN: Yeah, well, can I take it off and look?

SIMONS: (Laughter).


SIMONS: No, you can't.


SCHWEITZER: The logo similarity has been a running joke among baseball fans ever since the team arrived in D.C. in 2005 and adopted the vintage W logo used by long-gone D.C. baseball team, the Washington Senators. Todd Radom knows this history well. He's the guy who recast the Senators' logo for Major League Baseball.

TODD RADOM: It is a remarkably similar curly W.

SCHWEITZER: Radom has designed thousands of sports logos during his career, but he says the one for the Nats is trickier than others out there.

RADOM: Boston Red Sox are two socks. The Philadelphia Eagles have an eagle. The word national really didn't lend itself to easy identification.

SCHWEITZER: So the decision was made to go with a word or a letter. And the chosen letter was the Senators' W, which happened to look a lot like the W Walgreens has used since at least the 1950s. And Walgreens never sued. That might seem surprising considering the drugstore chain filed a suit against grocer Wegmans over its W logo back in 2010. Wegmans later settled and stopped using the W. Neither Walgreens nor Major League Baseball agreed to comment for this story. So I turned to Ross Kimbarovsky. He's a former intellectual property attorney. He said he's not surprised Walgreens hasn't gone after Major League Baseball for a trademark violation because Walgreens the corporation, he says, isn't easily mistaken for a baseball team.

ROSS KIMBAROVSKY: It would be unfair at this point for them to be able to point a finger and say people are confused because what's been happening over the many, many decades there hasn't been any evidence of confusion.

SCHWEITZER: Kimbarovsky, who founded the logo company Crowdspring, says people probably aren't walking into Nationals Park looking to refill prescriptions. So back outside the stadium, I asked self-identified D.C. native Tye Ali if he's ever thought people would confuse the Nationals cap he's currently wearing for a Walgreens cap.

TYE ALI: No. No, everybody knows this is a Nationals hat (laughter). But then I don't know. It might be a Walgreens.


ALI: (Laughter).

SCHWEITZER: For diehard fans in D.C., the Walgreens' curly W and the Nationals' curly W aren't even in the same ballpark.

For NPR News, I'm Ally Schweitzer in Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ally Schweitzer (she/her) is an editor with NPR's Morning Edition. She joined the show in October 2022 after eight years at WAMU, the NPR affiliate in Washington.