David Stern, right, said he wouldn't stand in the way if Tom Benson wants to change the Hornets' name. (Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
By Ben Golliver
The Pelicans are clear for takeoff.
NBA commissioner David Stern told reporters in New Orleans on Wednesday that a reported name change for the New Orleans Hornets would be received with open arms and a quick rubber stamp by the league office. On Monday, it was reported that the Hornets could re-brand as the Pelicans as soon as the 2013-14 season. A Hornets spokesperson would not officially confirm plans for the name change.
The Times-Picayune reported that Stern was a bit coy on Wednesday but made it clear the NBA, which sold the Hornets to owner Tom Benson earlier this year, had no objections to a potential re-branding.
"Everyone seems to know about this but me,’’ Stern said. "I’m sure whatever it is, I’m sure it will be good. If that’s (Pelicans) what it is, that’s fine, too.’’
"I think the Hornets may have a friend in the league office that might help expedite the process when they decide on a name,’’ Stern said. "That’s what I heard. I don’t remember his name and I’m sure it will happen faster.’’
HoopsWorld.com also reported on Stern's statements to the media.
"My guess is that there’s going to be some sort of formal application in the next couple of months and we’ll see where it goes from there. … There are lots of things that have to be filed. In fact, I do know that the Hornets filed to protect five names, trademark protection. They have to apply to us, they have to pay certain fees, there’s a timing schedule, but I think the Hornets may have a friend in the league office that may help expedite the process when they decide on a name. I don’t remember his name, but I’m pretty sure it’ll happen faster than those big old meanies at the NBA say it’ll happen."
Benson, owner of the NFL's New Orleans Saints, told the Times-Picayune that he would pursue a name change as soon as he purchased the Hornets back in April.
"We need to find a name like (Jazz)," Benson said, referring to New Orleans first NBA team that relocated to Salt Lake City in 1979. "Whether we can get that or let us use that, you've got to know we're working on it. We'd like to change it tomorrow. We have not gotten that approved, but we're not letting up on it, either. Because we've got a good relationship with the commissioner and his people and we're going to be on them daily to do something."
The Hornets name came with the franchise when former owner George Shinn relocated the team to New Orleans after 14 years in Charlotte. Shinn then sold the Hornets to the NBA in 2010.
The Pelicans moniker has been rumored as a possibility for some time, according to Hornets247.com. A Facebook fan page advocating for the name change was founded back in April. Louisiana is nicknamed the "Pelican State" and the bird appears on the state's flag.
Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan told the Charlotte Observer in November that he would be interested in reacquiring the Hornets moniker, which existed in Charlotte from 1988-2002, if it became available.
“It’s definitely an interest down the road, but right now it’s the New Orleans Hornets,” Jordan told the 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.”
There’s no telling what the cost or lead time of a name change would entail. However, NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said last April in Charlotte that this would be an easier process than other name changes because the league already owns the rights to the name “Charlotte Hornets.”
The Bobcats entered the Charlotte market as an expansion team following the Hornets’ departure for New Orleans.