The Pelicans Are In For A Fight
The Pelicans? Really?
The New Orleans Hornets organization is going to change their name. When Tom Benson was awarded the team in April he kept no secret of his desire to drop the Hornets moniker in exchange for a name that was more suited to the Louisiana/New Orleans market.
Yesterday, Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports scooped the story revealing that the new name Benson and company have zeroed in on is the Pelicans and that they are hoping to get approved by the NBA as soon as next year.
The Hornets for their part are emphatically denying that a name change is anywhere close, as there is a lengthy and substantial NBA approval process that a name change has to undergo, but it is clear that Pelicans is the name the owner wants and that they have already started that process.
Skipping over the obvious lack of marketability Pelicans has in the sports world, there is some history to why Pelicans is on the table. Benson owned a minor league baseball team called the Pelicans and retains ownership of the trade marks, so that hurdle is cleared.
Louisiana is the Pelican State, so there is that.
There is no doubting that Pelicans is the name the owner wants for a number of reasons, but one thing that’s being glossed over is the fact that owners have in the past tried to change names only to find the NBA unwilling to buy in.
When the Memphis Grizzlies moved to Memphis, then-owner Michael Heisley wanted to change the name to the Memphis Express. The NBA ruled that it was too commercial given that FexEx is headquartered in Memphis and at the time was expected to be a huge corporate sponsor of the team.
Michael Jordan has been hinting that he wants to drop the Bobcats name in Charlotte; the NBA is lukewarm to a name change for name change’s sake.
What’s overlooked in all of this is the economic impact of a name change and that marketability of merchandise with a team logo is the largest portion of the NBA’s income, far exceeding its TV revenue, far exceeding its game ticket sales.
So while Tom Benson and his advisers want his franchise to be the Pelicans, the process of making that name change happen is just starting and given the reaction both nationally and locally, Benson and company look to have an uphill fight on their hands.