The Utah Jazz originally played in New Orleans.
Earlier this year, the New Orleans Hornets made a major decision that had nothing to do with their play on the basketball court—they announced the team would change their name to the Pelicans, effective next season.
Team owner Tom Benson said that when he purchased the team, it was a “priority to change the name to reflect our culture, our community and our resolve.”
The new team name certainly fits that description, as the pelican is the state bird of Louisiana and appears on the state flag and seal.
Benson made the right move, as the Pelicans name fits the city of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region.
More importantly, the Hornets name was never fitting for New Orleans after they made the move from Charlotte in 2002. The moniker has regional ties to Charlotte and the city’s history.
But the Pelicans are the exception, not the norm. Many professional sports teams who have relocated haven’t changed regional names, leading to out-of-place monikers.
Here’s a list of professional teams who need to change their mascots.
The Memphis Grizzlies didn't change their team name when they moved from Vancouver.
The Vancouver Grizzlies made the move to Memphis in 2001. Unfortunately, Canada didn’t confiscate the Grizzlies moniker at the border.
In the United States, the Grizzly Bear doesn’t live east of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. That’s thousands of miles away from Memphis, rendering the Grizzlies mascot a bit strange for the team.
The Grizzlies missed a big opportunity to come up with a cool mascot when they moved to Tennessee, what with the city’s rich musical history—but blew the chance.
The Flames were named for a fire that hit Atlanta during the Civil War.
The Flames carried over their team name when they made the move from Atlanta in 1980. While the team has played in three Stanley Cup Finals and won it all in 1989, the Flames moniker should have stayed in Atlanta where it belonged.
Atlanta’s nickname is “Hotlanta” but the team’s name had even more significance for the city. The Flames were named for the famous fire William Tecumseh Sherman started in the city that destroyed Atlanta. The event was considered the beginning of the Civil War.
While a fitting name while the team was in Atlanta, the Flames moniker doesn’t quite meld with Calgary. The name reflects the history of an entirely different nation.
The city’s culture is ripe with naming possibilities. The city has a rich history with the Calgary Stampede rodeo event. Calgary’s WHA team was named the Cowboys.
Though they’ve had the Flames name for more than 30 years, the team name isn’t quite as fitting for Calgary as it was in Atlanta.
The Jazz were initially criticized when they didn't change their name upon moving to Utah.
Salt Lake City doesn’t have the richest musical history, yet the Jazz kept the their team name when the team made the move to Utah from New Orleans.
The moniker made perfect sense when the Jazz were located in the Crescent City, which has a rich tradition of music.
Yet the Jazz name seems miscast in Utah. The logo reflects the divide between team and location, featuring the name of the team over mountains. The team would do well to change their team name that reflects regional pride better.
The Rams played in Los Angeles under the same name for nearly half a century.
The St. Louis Rams moved east from Los Angeles prior to the 1995 season after nearly five decades in Southern California.
While the name Rams isn’t a name with regional ties to the Los Angeles area—the team took up the name when the team was founded in Cleveland in 1936—with nearly half a century in Southern California, the name belongs in Los Angeles.
St. Louis may have won a Super Bowl under the Rams name, but it just isn’t the right title for the team.
Bobcats ownership has expressed interest about renaming the team to Hornets.
The Bobcats are different from other teams on this list since they are merely an expansion team and never relocated. But the relocation chain of events in the NBA has impacted them.
Utah kept the “Jazz” moniker when they moved from New Orleans. New Orleans originally kept the “Hornets” name when they moved from Charlotte. Sensing a trend here?
Luckily for Charlotte, it might be feasible for the team to make the switch. In a November interview with The Charlotte Observer, team owner Michael Jordan said that he would be receptive to changing the team’s name back to the Hornets if New Orleans gave up the name.
It makes a lot of sense to make the switch back. The Hornets name has important meaning to the city.
The British commander Charles Cornwallis called Charlotte a “hornet’s nest” in the Revolutionary War. A hornet’s nest appears on every police officer’s uniform and cop car in the city, and one also appears on a statue in the center of Charlotte.
Now that Charlotte has the opportunity, it makes plenty of sense for the team to switch names, given the regional pull the Hornets name has in North Carolina.