New Orleans changing its NBA nickname from Hornets to Pelicans was not a secret.
But the logo and color scheme was, until today. New Orleans on Thursday officially unveiled its new nickname, logo and color scheme, capturing the essence of New Orleans and the Gulf and spotlighting the ecological concerns of the region.
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The pelican, Louisiana’s state bird, symbolizes the city and region’s return from the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina and reminds fans of two major issues: coastal restoration and wildlife conservation.
The logo depicts a menacing pelican, wings spread, with a basketball under its beak, a fleur de lis and a font reminiscent of the Crescent City. The new colors are blue, red and gold.
The team will remain the Hornets for the rest of this season and will become the Pelicans after the season. The team’s new uniforms will be unveiled at another time.
Video: Why the team picked Pelicans
Team owner and New Orleans management took the rebranding seriously and set out to make it more than just a nickname and logo change.
Environmental change is at the top of the list.
“This logo and this brand also enables us to do more than just a name and more than just a logo. … You talk about the pelican and its resiliency,” team president Dennis Lauscha said. “It was essentially on the endangered list and came off the endangered list five days before the BP oil spill. During the course of the BP oil spill, the species was again under immense pressures. But it’s a resilient bird and the bird came back to reflect the resiliency of the people of the Gulf Coast.
“It’s also way to educate and bring awareness to what’s happening on our Gulf Coast and how we can fix it over the next couple of years.”
New Orleans enlisted the help of the Audubon Nature Institute president and CEO Ron Forman, who applauded what the franchise wanted to do with the nickname and logo.
Forman said coastal erosion and wetlands loss is a problem, and said, “If we don’t do something soon in Louisiana, soon the city of New Orleans is going to be waterfront and it’ll be devastating to our children and our children’s children.”
When Benson, who also owns the NFL’s Saints, bought the team from the NBA in April, the New Orleans native indicated a name change was forthcoming.
“It was a priority to change the name to reflect our culture, our community and our resolve. The Pelican does that,” Benson said in a statement. “Our region has been hard hit in recent years, and the one thing that stands out is the resiliency and determination to come back, to fight and overcome. The Pelican symbolizes that.
“The synergy of this name, this bird and the future of our state and region are intertwined and in three, five, 10 years from now, it will be not only be a name of a sports franchise but it will also be the face of the continued recovery of our region. We will promote healthy habitats, not only for our youth but for our community, our coast and our wildlife. The Pelican name will do that. It is more than a name. It represents our way of life.”
In December, NBA Commissioner David Stern said, “If it works for them, it works for me,” Stern said. “I don’t have any objections to anything that the Hornets want to do name-wise because I’m sure it’ll be sensible. … I’m sure whatever it is, it’ll be good. If (Pelicans) is what it is, that’s fine. … I think everything sounds good. I think Lakers, have you seen any lakes in Los Angeles? There’s the same amount of lakes in L.A. as there is jazz in Utah, or grizzlies in Memphis. I’m out of that business. Whatever works for a team works for me.”
It is the second time in NBA history a team changed its name without relocating. Washington went from Bullets to Wizards after the 1996-97 season.
A limited supply of Pelicans merchandise is available at the team store at New Orleans Arena and online at www.hornetsonline.com.
When the Hornets moved from Charlotte to New Orleans, it kept the nickname. Now that Hornets will be free after this season, Charlotte may consider changing its name from Bobcats back to Hornets.
“We are aware of the impending change regarding the team nickname in New Orleans,” Bobcats President and COO said in a statement. “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.”
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said: “The New Orleans franchise will continue to use Hornets throughout the remainder of the season. We are excited about the new identity selected by Tom Benson and look forward to continuing to work with the Charlotte Bobcats on exploring whether a name change is in the long-term interest of their team.”