What’s in a name? The Charlotte Hornets played in the NBA for only 14 seasons, from 1988-89 through 2001-02, before moving to New Orleans and taking the nickname with them.
But the New Orleans franchise has undergone an identity shift. New owner Tom Benson has renamed the team the Pelicans and, according to CBSSports.com, the process is already under way for Charlotte to reclaim the name it lost more than a decade ago.
The Charlotte Observer reported in April that deputy commissioner Adam Silver told season-ticket holders in Charlotte that the process for changing the name could take up to 18 months, but the move would likely be a popular one in North Carolina’s Queen City.
Charlotte-based Blackhawk Hardware created this ad that aired locally that supports, enthusiastically, the idea of bringing the Hornets name back to the city:
Do fans like the idea? Well, considering fans at a Jan. 19 game between the Sacramento Kings and the Bobcats at Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena were chanting the wrong name for the home team … yeah, they probably do like the idea.
At the April meeting with season-ticket holders, Silver said there would not be an issue with the franchise re-acquiring the name. Silver said the Pelicans don’t own the name; rather, the NBA does. According to the CBSSports.com report, the digital identity NBAHornets.com was recently registered—as in on Wednesday, May 15—by NBA Media Ventures, LLC, the media branch of the NBA that owns NBA.com, Hornets.com and CharlotteHornets.com.
But the name “Hornets” has a much, much longer history in Charlotte.
A team in the defunct World Football League played in Charlotte under the name Hornets in 1974-75.
Even more significantly, however, was the Charlotte Hornets minor-league baseball team, founded in 1901. Some form of that team was in existence until 1973 and was affiliated with the Washington Senators or their successors, the Minnesota Twins, from 1937-42 and again from 1946-72.
But hornets have been affiliated with Charlotte long before any athletic teams existed.
The first flag adopted by the city of Charlotte included a hornet’s nest, which has long been a symbol for Charlotte. In the American Revolution, the citizens of Charlotte fought so fiercely that British general Charles Cornwallis compared the resistance his army encountered there to a “hornet’s nest.”
Considering the nickname “Bobcats” came about as a narcissistic whim of original owner Bob Johnson, perhaps a change should be in the offing.
We have been in contact with the NBA and we are conducting our own research to determine if that is the best course of action. As some of you may be aware, we have engaged a national polling group to survey both our current season-ticket holders and randomly selected individuals in our local area to see how our fans and stakeholders feel about this topic.
Judging from the e-mails you’ve sent me, the opinion seems to be very mixed. Some of you have said we should change the name and some of you have said we should not. In fact, a few of you even suggested that we should change the name to something new altogether, and not use Bobcats or Hornets. There are a lot of factors to take into account and a lot of information to sift through. This is a decision that we will not take lightly and we will not make hastily. We want to do what we believe will be in the best interests of our organization and our fans.
My hunch is that at some point in the next year or so, we’ll be hearing that the Charlotte Hornets will be back in the NBA for 2014-15.