(CBS Charlotte) — By now, you’ve heard that New Orleans’ NBA franchise is becoming the Pelicans, freeing up the Hornets nickname for Charlotte. The only catch? MJ has to shell out $3 million. That’s not much scratch for His Airness.
After all, he’s paying Gana Diop $7.3 million this year.
You’ve also heard about the pro-Hornets grassroots movement. Both Bring Back The Buzz and We Beelieve have thousands of supporters on Twitter and Facebook respectively. There’s also the Charlotte Observer poll from last spring, which shows 85 percent out of more than 12,000 votes support the Hornets nickname for our NBA franchise. Bobcats drew 3 percent, receiving fewer votes than both “Cougars” and “I don’t care.”
I rarely hear anyone argue for keeping the Bobcats name, but I’ve heard people sarcastically quip that the organization should focus instead on improving the product on the floor. I can’t disagree with that, and who could? But nobody believes changing the name will lead to more wins. It also misses the point. The issue is whether or not to change the name.
Why would Hornets make more sense than Bobcats?
For one, it’s local. British general Charles Cornwallis referred to Charlotte as a “hornet’s nest” of rebellion during the Revolutionary War. CMPD still uses the nest on its logo. It also represents the enthusiasm our community originally had for the NBA. Yes, George Shinn took the team to New Orleans amidst a wave a bad publicity. But that wave has passed. If the majority Charlotteans had a negative reaction to the Hornets’ brand, you wouldn’t see Hornets gear around town. You wouldn’t see the overwhelming poll results, either.
But aren’t bobcats local? Sure, they’re indigenous to North Carolina. So are squirrels. And many, if not most, Charlotteans believe that Bob Johnson named the team after himself. After rarely attending games, rarely assembling a winning product and also calling Charlotte’s business community “incestuous,” I think it’s a good idea to turn the page on the Bob Johnson era. It’s simply too easy to associate Bob Johnson with the name Bobcats.
I think the Bobcats’ brass has already reached that conclusion. Why else would they chop “Bob” off of the home uniforms so they only say “Cats?”
Changing the name to Hornets would also draw interest back to the franchise as it’s starting to build a promising foundation for the future. Kemba Walker has transformed from an inconsistent, unsure rookie to a franchise player in one year. Sure, they need considerable help in the frontcourt, but they’re closer than most think to becoming a consistent winner.
You’ve already gone halfway, MJ. The timing is right. Break out the Purple and Teal.
~Lewis Woodard, WFNZ Sports Radio The Fan 610 AM
Follow on Twitter @LewWoodard