By Ben Golliver
Hours after the New Orleans Hornets announced Thursday that the franchise would be adopting the “Pelicans” moniker following the 2012-13 season, the Charlotte Bobcats indicated they would explore bringing the “Hornets” nickname back to Charlotte.
Bobcats president and COO Fred Whitfield released a statement Thursday indicating his franchise would investigate acquiring the nickname, which originally belonged to the Charlotte Hornets before the franchise relocated to New Orleans in 2002.
“We are aware of the impending change regarding the team nickname in New Orleans,” Whitfield’s statement read. “We are currently in contact with the NBA and conducting our own due diligence relative to this matter. We will not have any further comment until we have completed this process.”
That due diligence, according to the Charlotte Observer, includes a survey of season ticket-holders.
Bobcats owner Michael Jordan indicated in a Nov. 2012 interview with the Observer that he would have interest in reclaiming the nickname.
“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.”
The Hornets joined the NBA as an expansion franchise in 1988 and spent 14 seasons in Charlotte before being moved to New Orleans by former owner George Shinn in 2002. Shinn opted to keep the nickname but eventually sold the franchise to the NBA in 2010. In April 2012, the league in turn sold the franchise to Tom Benson, who sought the Pelicans name change to better reflect the team’s home.
“It was very important to me and our staff that we change the name of this club to something that represented New Orleans, Louisiana,” Benson said in a promotional video this week. “We worked on it. It wasn’t something that just came out of the blue, overnight. We worked on it for a long period of time. You just can’t have a better name for Louisiana and New Orleans than the Pelican. It’s the perfect representative.”
The Bobcats franchise joined the NBA as an expansion franchise in 2004. Jordan purchased a majority stake in the Bobcats in 2010.
While Bobcats are indigenous to the Carolinas, the Observer noted back in December that the “Charlotte Hornets” moniker drew its inspiration from the 1700s.
The Hornets nickname in Charlotte dates back to the Revolutionary War, when British General Charles Cornwallis compared the resistance in Charlotte to a hornet’s nest. It has been used in sports by a minor league baseball team (1901-73), an upstart football league team (1974-75) and the city’s first NBA franchise.
The Bobcats have finished with a winning record just once and have made just one playoff appearance during their nine-year franchise history. The Hornets finishing with a winning record eight times and qualified for the playoffs seven times during their 14 seasons in Charlotte, advancing out of the first round on four occasions.