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Broomsticks Stay, but Not the Name: Quidditch Becomes ‘Quadball’

Quidditch, the sport of boarding school wizards riding broomsticks in “Harry Potter,” will become “Quadball” to the humans who play the game in real life, its leading organizations said on Tuesday.

The groups cited financial obstacles imposed by Warner Bros., the producer of the movie series, holding the trademark to Quidditch, as well as a wish to “distance themselves” from J.K. Rowling, the author of the books, and what they called her “anti-trans positions,” referring to her contentious statements on gender identity made in recent years.

“This is a bold move, and for me personally there is definitely some nostalgia to the original name,” Alex Benepe, who helped found the real-life sport in 2005, said in a statement. “But from a long-term development perspective I feel confident this is a smart decision for the future that will allow the sport to grow without limits.”

The path to the decision started in December, when U.S. Quidditch and Major League Quidditch — the youth and professional wings of the sport — announced their intention to choose and trademark a new name. Their statement emphasized “sponsorship and broadcast opportunities” missed because of licensing issues.Orig

In a 2017 interview with The Quidditch Post, a news site devoted to the sport, Mr. Benepe praised Warner Bros. for being “remarkably permissive” in allowing a league to operate and sell tickets under the name.

He added, however, that Warner Bros. had prohibited the sale of merchandise that used the word “Quidditch” and that the sport had been forced to sacrifice major business opportunities. Mr. Benepe argued at the time — before the latest political controversy with Ms. Rowling — for a name change.

“I love Harry Potter and always will, but if our sport needs Harry Potter to survive it must not be that great — and I believe that it is great and I think our players do too,” he said.

Nevertheless, on Tuesday the International Quidditch Association, the sport’s top governing body, listed Ms. Rowling’s “anti-trans positions” as its primary motive for changing the sport’s name.

“We’ve tried to be clear that it’s both reasons,” Jack McGovern, a spokesman for U.S. Quidditch and Major League Quidditch, said in an interview. “We did not intend to give a value judgment about which reason was more important than the other.”

Quidditch matches frequently appeared as scenes in the Harry Potter books and movies. The real-life version of it includes many elements taken from Ms. Rowling’s imagination of the game: the riding of brooms, hurling balls through hoops and the need to evade Bludgers, and eventually catch the Golden Snitch. In real life a Bludger is a rubber dodgeball, rather than a flying ball of iron, and the Snitch is a tennis ball attached to a person, as in flag football.

Thousands of people play the game in more than 40 countries, according to the International Quidditch Association.

After her comments about transgender issues on Twitter drew widespread attention, Ms. Rowling published an essay in 2020 that raised concerns about “pushing to erode the legal definition of sex and replace it with gender” and the rise in gender transition among young people.

Many advocates for transgender rights have called Ms. Rowling’s comments transphobic, and some fans have struggled to reconcile their love of “Harry Potter” with their objections to her views.

Ms. Rowling’s representatives at The Blair Partnership said she would have no comment on the decision but said in a statement that the various Quidditch leagues had never been endorsed or licensed by her.

Mr. McGovern said that the association of Quidditch with Ms. Rowling had become an obstacle in recruiting new players, and he said he did not know how much the official bodies of the sport would refer to “Harry Potter” in the future.

His first exposure to real-life Quidditch, he said, came in 2010 when he was in middle school. He persuaded one of his parents to drive him from Philadelphia to New York City to see a Quidditch World Cup. He said that he was struck by the “energy and life and forward momentum” of the game, and that he was a “fan of obscure sports more generally.”

Almost as an afterthought, he added, “I had been reading ‘Harry Potter’ at the time.” Asked to what extent his love for the books had motivated that early interest in the sport, Mr. McGovern replied: “It’s hard. I don’t want to say more now.”

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