By Ben Golliver
Tom Benson said that he would pursue a name change for the New Orleans Hornets when he purchased the franchise from the NBA and he reportedly could deliver on that promise as soon as next season.
The New Orleans Hornets are expected to change their nickname to the Pelicans as early as the 2013-14 season, numerous sources told Yahoo! Sports.
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.
Benson, who also owns the NFL's New Orleans Saints, told the Times-Picayune in April that he would investigate the possibility of a new name.
"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."
Back in November, the Times-Picayune reported that Gayle Benson, wife of Tom, said that she wants the team's color scheme to be navy blue, red and gold. The paper reported Tuesday that Greg Bensel, a Hornets spokesperson, would not confirm plans for the name change.
"We’re not confirming that is the name,’’ Bensel said. "This is a process that’s ongoing and still in discussions. And it will be eventually decided by the NBA.’’
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 and ESPN.com's UniWatch even posted possible jersey designs and logos to support the name change in May.
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.”