For many years the team was known by a variety of nicknames - including the Rokerites and the Rokermen. When the club moved from Roker Park in 1997 these were no longer relevant. The club therefore decided to ask the most important people - its supporters - to choose a definitive nickname.
Fans sent suggestions which were eventually narrowed down to five final options being: the Black Cats, the Light Brigade, the Miners, the Sols and the Mackems. Over 11,000 people voted on the club's official website, safc.com, and almost half of them preferred the 'Black Cats' name.
By choosing this nickname the red and white army nodded firmly in the direction of tradition. The link between Sunderland AFC and the black cat stems originally from a gun battery in 1805 on the River Wear which was renamed the 'Black Cat' battery after the men manning the station heard a mysterious miaow from a wailing black cat. A hundred years later in 1905, a black cat was pictured sitting on a football next to Chairman FW Taylor and three years later a black cat featured on a team photograph.
Black cats featured in several Sunderland AFC related cartoons in local papers before the first world war while the press reported that at the FA Cup Final many Sunderland supporters wore red and white button holes with a black cat tie pin. Sunderland's match programmes of the 1930's often featured black cats on their covers, but the place of the black cat in Sunderland folklore was sealed when a black kitten owned by twelve-year-old Billy Morris was believed to bring Sunderland luck as it sat in his pocket at Wembley throughout the 1937 FA Cup Final when Sunderland came from behind to beat Preston 3-1.
For years a black cat also resided at Roker Park, and was fed and watered by the football club. The Sunderland Supporters' Association have had the black cat as their emblem since their formation in the 1960's. Today, club mascots Samson and Delilah entertain supporters every matchday at the Stadium of Light. And so, Sunderland AFC became known as the Black Cats.