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After an announcement made today by team owners to a gathering of sports news representatives, the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets will now be known as the New Orleans Pelicans. The owners decided to change the name of the team to something more reflective of the culture and environment of the team’s city, and pelican birds are common along both the Mississippi River bank and the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico.
Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans NBA franchise, spearheaded the effort to make Louisiana’s state bird the team’s new mascot, along with a change in colors from blue and yellow to blue, gold, and red. He felt that hornets, as a holdover from the team’s years in Charlotte, NC, were not a species that was representative of New Orleans or Louisiana in general. Benson purchased the team before the 2001 season, and, in the last few years, has expressed his interest in renaming the team to better represent their hometown.
“The pelican has been a symbol of Louisiana since the 1800’s, hence its declarations as a state bird, its prominent representation on the state flag, the state’s coined nickname, ‘The Pelican State,’” said the team’s new fact sheet. “Revered as a skilled and loyal protector, the brown pelican possesses a speed, precisions, and resourcefulness unmatched by others within its species. It represents the essential qualities embodied by any successful team.”
The team’s new name has been subject to some derision in the sports news blogosphere, but it is undeniable that it is a more fitting name for a New Orleans-based team than the Hornets. In the spirit of non-representative team names, below is a list of teams who, due to a move or sale, have confusing team names and mascots.
Los Angeles Lakers- Originally from Michigan, the Los Angeles Lakers name derives from the state’s proximity to and containment of several Great Lakes. There are no lakes within a hundred miles of Los Angeles, and the city is well known for straddling the Pacific Coastline. Los Angeles’ MLB team, the Dodgers, also have an ironic name. Originally from Brooklyn, the team was known as the “Trolley Dodgers” as an homage to the above ground trolleys that traversed the borough. While Los Angeles once had a trolley system, the city is far better known for some of the worst traffic conditions in the United States.
Memphis Grizzlies- Founded in 1995, the Grizzlies were originally based in Vancouver, a Pacific Northwestern town known for its lush forests and stunning natural wildlife. After they moved to Memphis in 2001, the team retained the Grizzlies moniker despite the fact that their new hometown does not have much in the way of wilderness and is well known for its rock ‘n’ roll and blues history.
Utah Jazz- Originally started in 1975 as a New Orleans team, the Jazz took their name from the city’s vibrant nightlife and musical scene. The Jazz relocated to Utah in 1979, a state not particularly well known for its music scene, but the name stuck, and they have been the Utah Jazz for more than three decades. The Jazz are another team where the non-representative name lasted far longer than the more geographically appropriate name. Most Jazz fans, however, would consider the teams inexorably linked to the state of Utah, despite the confusing name.
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