The National Basketball Association team in New Orleans will change its name to the Pelicans after this season to “represent the culture and resolve of the Gulf Coast region.”
The pelican is pictured on Louisiana’s state flag and state seal, and the brown pelican was selected as the state bird in 1966. The team’s colors will be blue, gold and red.
“The message of a healthy habitat, in which the pelican thrives, will provide the centerpiece for a program of healthy living, exercise and education to that of protecting, saving and restoring our coastal wetlands and wildlife,” the team said yesterday in an e-mailed release. “The pelican will serve as that symbol.”
The team now known as the Hornets moved to New Orleans from Charlotte for the 2002-03 season and kept the nickname.
Tom Benson, owner of the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints, bought the Hornets last year from the NBA’s 30 franchise owners, who had purchased the team from George Shinn in December 2010.
Benson said when he bought the franchise that he planned to change the nickname to something more fitting for the city, which along with the Gulf Coast is still recovering from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.
“When we purchased the basketball team, it was a priority to change the name to reflect our culture, our community and our resolve,” Benson said in the release. “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.”