HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The name on the front of the jerseys will reportedly remain the same. The NBA franchise in New Orleans is not going anywhere.
But the same can’t be said for the nickname that the franchise brought to town from Charlotte. The Hornets could soon become the Pelicans … that’s right, the state bird (technically it’s the brown pelican) is set for global stardom as the new nickname of the franchise with new ownership in charge.
The Hornets’ new owner, Tom Benson, who also owns the New Orleans Saints, owns the rights to the Pelicans nickname, per a report from Yahoo! Sports that first announced the pending name change.
If it happens as planned, the change in New Orleans could trigger not only a mascot and color scheme change in the Pelican State, but also some changes back in Charlotte, where Bobcats owner Michael Jordan said the Hornets nickname would be welcomed if available:
“It’s definitely an interest down the road, but right now it’s the New Orleans Hornets,” Jordan told the Charlotte Observer. “We would definitely entertain the opportunity. That’s as much as we can say right now. We’ve heard the community ask the question, and we would listen.”
The Hornets also considered the nicknames Krewe (groups of costumed paraders in the annual Mardi Gras carnival in New Orleans) and Brass.
Louisiana is the Pelican State. The brown pelican is the state bird and appears on the state flag and seal, and official state painting. Moreover, the Pelicans played minor league baseball in New Orleans in all but nine seasons from 1887-1959 and in 1977.
Gayle Benson, [Tom] Benson’s wife, told Fox Sports New Orleans recently her preference for new team colors was navy blue, red and gold.
The Hornets came to New Orleans in 2002 from Charlotte. New Orleans has also had an NBA team called the Jazz, which moved to Salt Lake City in 1979.
Since the fine folks in Utah have no intention of parting ways with the Jazz nickname, the Bensons had to come up with something. And for the people of the state of Louisiana, the Pelicans is a much more representative moniker than the Hornets. It’s a state-pride thing.
We’re all for region-appropriate nicknames and everything; the Oklahoma City Thunder — who moved from Seattle and left the name “SuperSonics” behind — is a spot-on name. But some nicknames need to be left alone for eternity.
The Los Angeles Lakers are named for the lakes of Minnesota, where the franchise began as the Minneapolis Lakers. That nickname is off limits.