New Orleans, Charlotte working together on transitioning Hornets nickname (7/18/13)

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

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New Orleans, Charlotte working together on transitioning to Hornets nickname

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

LAS VEGAS — The NBA’s Board of Governors announced Thursday that it has approved the Charlotte franchise’s request to return to the city’s original NBA roots. The team is reclaiming the name “Charlotte Hornets,” beginning with the 2014-15 season. It was the nickname citizens of Charlotte chose in 1988 as an expansion franchise.

The move was made possible by New Orleans Owner Tom Benson’s 2012 decision to select a more regionally appropriate nickname for the Crescent City’s NBA team, which had gone by “Hornets” since moving to Louisiana in 2002. New Orleans officially became the “Pelicans” on April 18 and will have a brand-new look in 2013-14. Charlotte will play one final season as the Bobcats in 2013-14, before making the change to Hornets.

In conjunction with the historic decision to return to its popular local nickname, the Charlotte franchise is making a donation to the Pelicans Gulf Coast Preservation Fund.

“We are very pleased to transition the Hornets name to Charlotte, where the name has a unique fit and meaning to their fans, much like Pelicans has to our fans and our region,” Benson said. “Working together with the Charlotte organization we were able to make this happen with the fans of both communities benefitting and we look forward to working with them on finalizing the specifics of the transition. We are also very thankful to the Charlotte organization for their contribution to the Pelicans Gulf Coast Preservation Fund. It speaks to the positive nature when two teams work together for the better good of our game, our league and our communities.”

The nickname “Hornets” has a very specific historic meaning to the people of Charlotte. During the Revolutionary War, upon experiencing significant local resistance, British general Lord Cornwallis wrote back to England that Charlotte was “a veritable hornet’s nest of rebellion.” The phrase quickly became a symbol of pride for the city. “Charlotte Hornets” was the nickname used by now-defunct baseball and football teams prior to the NBA’s arrival there.

Meanwhile, the pelican is the official state bird of Louisiana, which has long been known as “The Pelican State.” The animal appears on the state flag and Louisiana license plates. In the New Orleans metropolitan area, there are also countless businesses that use the word “Pelican” in their name.

Leading up to the start of the 2014-15 NBA season, the New Orleans and Charlotte franchises will continue to work closely during the latter’s nickname-transition phase. The Pelicans were the first NBA franchise since the Washington Wizards (formerly Washington Bullets) in 1997 to change their nickname while remaining in the same city. Over the next year, New Orleans will rely heavily on that invaluable first-hand experience to assist Charlotte during its transformation period.