The Charlotte Bobcats decide to poll fans to determine if they should become the ‘Charlotte Hornets’

Ball Don't Lie

Immediately after Yahoo! Sports’ Marc. J Spears broke the news that the New Orleans Hornets’ switch to become the “New Orleans Pelicans” was a go, as was the case last month, eyes immediately shifted over to Charlotte to wonder if that city’s NBA franchise would take on the discarded name. From 1989 until 2002 the Charlotte Hornets were a teal-affixed fixture, and the current Charlotte franchise (the Charlotte Bobcats, which began play in 2004), has the unfortunate link to being partially named after the team’s former owner in Robert “Bob” Johnson.

All signs seem to be pointing to the Bobcats becoming the Hornets under current owner Michael Jordan, in the same way the “expansion” Cleveland Browns were created by the NFL in 1999. Charlotte just re-did its uniforms, though, outfitted its arena to reflect the changes in style, and they do have a pretty entertaining team despite all the losses. Would owner Michael Jordan, as we discussed in December, be quick to pull the trigger on a second re-design in as many years? Would it make much difference, to fans that would prefer to see them crack 40 wins for the second time in the team’s nine-year history, if the Bobcats made the move?

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The team plans to find out. From the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell:

[The Bobcats] hired Harris Interactive, a nationally prominent polling company, to survey both current Bobcats customers and the general Charlotte sports market about a possible change.

The Observer obtained a copy of the survey Harris emailed to various Bobcats season-ticket holders Wednesday. The electronic survey takes about 30 minutes to fill out, and asks all sorts of questions about the Bobcats, the Hornets and the general perception of what would sell more game tickets and team gear.

One question, about halfway through Harris’ survey, is the crux of the issue:

“If the Bobcats were to change their nickname to the ‘Hornets,’ would you attend more games than you currently do, attend fewer games, or attend about the same amount?”

As Bonnell broke in December, the Bobcats’ front office is on record as stating that such a change would cost the team an estimated $3 million. Now, that’s about 65 percent of the first year salary they’d pay to next June’s second overall pick (the Bobcats, at 10-32, are slated to choose second overall in this year’s draft should the lottery go according to odds), but it’s been proven highly regarded lottery picks tend to drive ticket sales and put fannies in seats.

(To our U.K. readers, I apologize.)

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A name and uniform change? Different colors? The switch will sell more apparel, that’s certain, but an uptick in attendance worth $3 million is far from certain. Especially for a struggling team like the Bobcats, working year to year and having to watch every penny.

Bonnell went on to point out that there is a group of ardent Bobcat fans that would prefer you not call them “Bobcat fans,” already routinely coming out to sit in the cheap seats, begging for a change to come. From his report:

A grassroots effort called “Bring Back the Buzz” has lobbied for a name change from Bobcats to Hornets for over a year. Several hundred members of that group attended Saturday’s home loss to the Sacramento Kings.

Sitting mostly in the upper deck, they wore Hornets teal-and-purple merchandise and occasionally chanted “Charlotte Hornets’’ during the game.

The official report on the New Orleans name change came out on Tuesday, keep in mind, so these Charlotte Hornet-backers made this happen without knowledge that the “New Orleans Pelicans” switch was a done deal. It can’t be warming that they picked what was probably the easiest Bobcat ticket in weeks to purchase – a game against the lowly Sacramento Kings – but noise is noise nevertheless.

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What’s worth mentioning, and maybe I’m on an island here, is that the Charlotte Bobcats’ most recent uniforms are pretty cool looking. Even for road games, 41 contests that not many out of towners show up for:

It’s also worth mentioning that, 1990s-era nostalgia aside (something that is, um, feeding the hit counts of some of our favorite sites), teal is a pretty rotten color in most instances. It had a nice peak in the early 1990s, it’s enjoying a fashionable revival right now by those who wear it with a wink, and we’re sure your aunt came back from her trip to Arizona with all sorts of lovely southwestern-styled rings and broaches featuring the color. It’s teal, though, and it’s been a sports-y scourge for longer than it’s been in style.

Not to say that the current Charlotte Bobcats uniforms are cutting edge, we wouldn’t know what was cutting edge if it sawed a second front door into our house, but novelty is impermanent and $3 million is significant.

We’ll just have to see how that survey turns out, and where Michael Jordan goes from here.

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