Thursday, February 21, 2013

New Orleans Pelicans

On Tuesday night I was enjoying watching the National Basketball Association in action with my team, the Chicago Bulls, visiting the New Orleans Hornets. In the past I have written some about how often nearly all of the major sports leagues incorporate birds into their leagues and teams. Sometimes the names are obvious and extremely representative of a certain area (Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles) and other times they are a little more arbitrary (the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons). The New Orleans Hornets were originally the Charlotte Hornets, joining the NBA in the late 1980s. After moving to New Orleans in 2002 they were forced to Oklahoma City in 2005 for two seasons because of the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina. They continued in the city and last year they were sold by the NBA to Tom Benson, also the owner of the NFL's New Orleans Saints. Mr. Benson is from New Orleans and has a keen understanding of the area and its history.

All of this was important in January's announcement that the New Orleans Hornets would be changing their name to the New Orleans Pelicans at the conclusion of the current NBA season. I was pleased to see another avian name going up in the NBA and naturally thought it was appropriate for the area. The New Orleans Pelicans has been used as a name for baseball teams of various levels in the past and the state bird of Louisiana is the Brown Pelican as well. Fans that were unsure or doubtful about the name were convinced by the amazing logo which looks true to life as well.

I was subsequently astounded to learn that Mr. Benson and the organization had a much deeper mindset when it came to using the Brown Pelican as it not only, "represent[ed] the culture and resolve of the Gulf Coast region" but "also symboliz[ed] Louisiana’s most pressing initiative of coastal restoration and wildlife conservation.The press release continues:

"The team’s cornerstone community platforms will focus on two initiatives critical to the future success and prosperity of the Gulf South Region; the health and sustainability of our coastal wetlands and the health and fitness of our region’s children. 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 Pelican will serve as that symbol. 
Perseverance and renewal have been hallmarks of our community’s resurgence and the Pelican’s remarkable recovery closely matches that of the Gulf South Region. The Pelicans will be more than a namesake for the franchise, as New Orleans, the State of Louisiana and the Gulf South have a rich history connected to the name. Represented on Louisiana’s state flag and seal, the Pelican has been the state bird for over a century. The Pelican symbolizes the determination to not only survive, but thrive even when the odds are stacked against them as our region has demonstrated over and over. 
“When we purchased the basketball team, it was a priority to change the name to reflect our culture, our community and our resolve. The Pelican does that,” said Owner Tom Benson. “Our region has been hard hit in recent years and the one thing that stands out is the resiliency and determination to comeback, to fight and overcome. The Pelican symbolizes that. The synergy of this name, this bird and the future of our state and region are intertwined and in three, five, ten years from now, it will be not only be a name of a sports franchise but it will also be the face of the continued recovery of our region. We will promote healthy habitats, not only for our youth but for our community, our coast and our wildlife. The Pelican name will do that. It is more than a name. It represents our way of life.”

I think it is a marvelous decision and one that should be applauded by everyone in the conservation community, especially those people who are not fans of the sport.  There is an enormous opportunity here to continue this sentiment with other teams in the future and to create this synergy where it doesn't yet exist with some of the other wildlife-related franchises across the four major sports. I hope the New Orleans Pelicans can draw enough fans each season to continue in the city for decades and that the organization will support these progressive words with aggressive action for the environment. You can check out even more on the name, logo, and colors here.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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