Hornets Senior VP/Communications & Broadcasting Greg Bensel yesterday "denied a Yahoo! Sports report" that team Owner Tom Benson "plans to change the nickname of his NBA franchise from the Hornets to Pelicans," according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Bensel said, "We’re not confirming that is the name. This is a process that’s ongoing and still in discussions. And it will be eventually decided by the NBA." NBA Commissioner David Stern yesterday prior to the report said that he would "support a change of the Hornets' nickname" (NOLA.com, 12/4). Hornets Senior Dir of Communications Harold Kaufman said, "Been getting flooded with calls. Telling everyone that any name and color changes are controlled by the NBA and that process has yet to take shape" (USATODAY.com, 12/4). YAHOO SPORTS' Marc Spears in the initial report cited sources as saying that the Hornets are expected to adopt the Pelicans nickname "as early as the 2013-14 season." Benson "owns the rights to the nickname Pelicans," and the Hornets have "planned to change their nickname" since he purchased the team in April. The Hornets also "considered the nicknames Krewe and Brass." Louisiana is known as the Pelican State, as the brown pelican is the state bird and "appears on the state flag and seal, and official state painting." Benson's wife, Gayle, recently said that her "preference for new team colors was navy blue, red and gold" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/4).
FOR THE BIRDS? CBS Sports Network’s Allie LaForce said the Pelicans name is "terrible." LaForce: "It's the state bird, so I get it. They want to make it more Louisiana.” However, she said of New Orleans, “You think of Mardi Gras, jambalaya, and gumbo. The last thing I think of is a pelican.” CBS Sports Network's Doug Gottlieb added, “I would open negotiations and say, ‘Look we want the Jazz nickname back. It’s the New Orleans Jazz, it fits’” (“Lead Off,” CBS Sports Network, 12/4).
NBA TV’s Steve Smith said, “It should’ve been the New Orleans crawfish, because I like to eat” (“NBA GameTime,” NBA TV, 12/4).
TWITTER REAX: The possible name change has generated a lot of reaction on Twitter. NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano wrote, "The New Orleans Hornets are changing their name to the Pelicans. This is not a hoax, nor a story from @TheOnion." ESPN The Magazine's Don Van Natta Jr. wrote, "The New Orleans Hornets are changing its name to the Pelicans. Big missed opportunity: The New Orleans Brass." CBSSports.com's Will Brinson wrote, "New Orleans Krewe or New Orleans Brass would be boss. Pelicans the worst of the three." The N.Y. Post's Marc Berman wrote, "New Orleans Gumbo. New Orleans Crawfish. New Orleans Sazeracs. New Orleans Crescents. New Orleans Trombones New Orleans Bayous. Not Pelicans." ESPN's Kevin Negandhi wrote, "Is it April Fools?" Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy wrote, "People hating on the Pelicans nickname just don't appreciate what awesome animals they are." The Times-Picayune's Jeff Duncan wrote, "People saying Pelicans are not feared clearly have not sought the opinion of the local mullet population." WITI-Fox' Jen Lada wrote, "I happen to like Pelicans. I mean, if it weren't for that one they'd still be looking for Nemo..."
BRING THE BUZZ BACK TO CHARLOTTE: In Charlotte, Scott Fowler writes the Bobcats “need to rebrand themselves as the Charlotte Hornets.” The Bobcats nickname was chosen “in part for previous owner Bob Johnson, who was widely unpopular in Charlotte.” Although current Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan was “once Johnson’s minority partner before buying the team from him, I don’t think MJ likes the nickname at all.” He often “refers to the team as the ‘Cats’ in conversation, dropping the ‘Bob’ entirely.” Here is a “chance to remind people of the glory days of NBA basketball in Charlotte.” Fowler: “Sure, it will cost several million to do this, but it will be money well spent and the new Charlotte Hornets will eventually make it up via jersey and memorabilia sales. This makes sense from both a financial and an emotional standpoint” (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 12/5).
STERN TALKS ABOUT BENSON OWNERSHIP: The TIMES-PICAYUNE's Reid in a separate piece conducted a Q&A with Stern and asked how the NBA has been monitoring the Hornets' progress since Benson bought the team from the league in April. Stern said, "Our team marketing and business operations department has been down there at least twice. I spoke regularly with [Hornets President] Dennis Lauscha and with Tom. So I think it’s fair to say that we’re tuned into what’s going on." He added, "I speak to Tom probably once every 10 days or so. ... I would say an open and frank relationship. I always like to tell him that they had only eight games to sell in that football thing they are involved with. Football is a piece of cake, eight games. You got to work harder in the NBA." FS New Orleans prior to the start of the season signed a carriage deal with Charter, allowing the team's games to be seen around the Gulf Coast, including Mississippi and Alabama. Stern said, "That’s a big deal. To be in 2.1 million homes and make a new deal with DirectTV. To be on the north shore. It was like they were doing it with one hand behind their back and now they’re getting fans engaged, getting sponsors engaged and helping to sell tickets in the long run." Stern added of the NBA's previous ownership role with the Hornets, "That’s not a situation that is good for the league. But in the right circumstance I would do it again because when you make the commitment to the community, you’ve got to do what you got to do" (NOLA.com, 12/4).