When Tom Benson became the new owner of the New Orleans Hornets on Friday, the 83-year-old owner of the NFL franchise the Saints told reporters that he would like his team to have a new nick-name that is more relevant to the Crescent City, than the name the club is currently sporting. The squad got its name when it was residing in its city of origin; Charlotte and Benson’s thoughts echo sentiments from many of the team’s fans that the club deserves a name that has more to do the “Big Easy” than its current handle.
The club’s new owner told reporters that he would try to set up a dialogue with the Utah Jazz brain-trust, to see if he could negotiate bringing the name Jazz back to New Orleans. The franchise from Utah started off in New Orleans and played in the city for five years before deciding to make the move to their new home after the 1978-1979 campaign. Although they held onto their name after relocating, it is also not reflective of its locale; when was the last time you heard of a great jazz band hailing from Salt Lake City.
Although I agree with Benson and may of the team’s fans that the club’s name should be changed; I would be dead set against the franchise to name itself the New Orleans Jazz. The new ownership should push the team in a new direction; instead of nostalgically embracing the past and fondly remembering a team that was in all actuality pretty darn bad.
During their five-year stint in New Orleans the team never had a winning campaign and was shut out of the Playoffs. The club’s best record was 39-43 when they ended the year at 39-43. Although the Jazz had one of the 50 greatest players in the history of the Association in Pistol Pete Maravich; he would never be surrounded by enough talent to get out of the NBA basement. With attendance dwindling the team relocated to Utah and New Orleans was without an NBA team until the Hornets relocated from Charlotte.
It is time to forge a new identity for the team from New Orleans and I believe I have come up with a new nick-name for the franchise that is both culturally relevant and will be embraced by the fans. My proposal is to name the club after one of the city’s most famous landmarks; Royal Street and for them to be called the New Orleans Royals.
The Hornets had a star-crossed history under its former owner George Shinn and the quicker Benson distances the team from the history the better for the franchise. However that does not mean you revert to an unsuccessful past just because the name originated in your city. Just take a look at the record of the “new” Cleveland Browns since they rejoined the NFL in 1999, to see how that has worked out.
Benson was able to turn around the hapless Saints, bringing the team and the city their first NFL Championship when they won the Super Bowl in 2010. His next mission will be to turn around the fortunes of the city’s NBA franchise; a team that deserves a fresh start and its own name.