The New Orleans Hornets have denied a report that the team will change its name - perhaps by the start of next season - from Hornets to Pelicans.
“We’re not confirming that is the name,” Hornets spokesman Greg Bensel told the New Orleans Times Picayune when asked about a Yahoo! Sports story reporting that a name change was imminent.
“This is a process that’s ongoing and still in discussions. And it will be eventually decided by the NBA,” Bensel said.
The Hornets were purchased by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson in April for $338 million and Benson has said that he would entertain the idea of changing the team’s name - a subject he says fans have brought up with him since he bought the club. The Times Picayune reports that Benson has been pushing for a name change - he’s reportedly owned the rights to the Pelican nickname for quite a while - and his wife, Gayle, has said that she wants to see the team’s colors changed to navy blue, red and gold.
Times Picayune columnist Jeff Duncan polled his Twitter followers about the proposed name change and wrote that the Pelicans nickname was viewed as a dud. Duncan proposed the name Dukes and according to the Yahoo! report, Brass and Krewe were also considered.
“I won’t say when it will happen, but of course I would support a (name) change,” NBA commissioner David Stern told the Times Picayune before the Yahoo! story was published.
New Orleans was home to the Jazz - a perfect name for the team - for five seasons from 1974 to 1979 before founder Sam Battisone moved the team to Utah. The NBA returned to the Big Easy in 2002 when the Charlotte Hornets relocated to New Orleans and kept the nickname along with its teal color scheme. If New Orleans ditches the Hornets nickname, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan has said that he might drop the Bobcats nickname and bring the Hornets name back to Charlotte.
The Brown Pelican is the state bird of Louisiana - it was also the nickname for a minor league baseball team in New Orleans - and would fit right in to the NBA’s animal-friendly landscape of Bulls, Bucks, Grizzlies and Hawks, among others.
I've been through enough name changes of minor league teams where I live to know how it works: everyone is outraged by the name change and how dumb the new mascot is. A couple years later it seems completely normal and noone thinks twice about it.