Grassroots Charlotte Hornets movement gains buzz
Posted on 2 Mar 2012 by Ryan Pitkin
If you haven’t heard the buzz around Charlotte yet, you haven’t been listening.
A movement, going by a few different names, has been gaining momentum in the Queen City recently to try to convince the Charlotte Bobcats management to bring the Hornets name back to Charlotte.
The grassroots campaign was started by John Morgan, an elementary art teacher in Charlotte, almost two years ago. Back then it basically consisted of a Facebook page with somewhere between 100 and 200 “Likes.”
Now, with word of new ownership in New Orleans inevitably dropping the Hornets name the city’s NBA team adopted when they adopted Charlotte’s old team, the movement has a new breath.
The Facebook page, titled “We Beelieve: Charlotte…take back your Hornets!” now has 2,400 likes. A petition that Morgan typed up on Tuesday, Feb. 21 has 2,459 signatures less than two weeks later. The goal was to get 1,000 total.
“As soon as [the Hornets] went away I started thinking of ways to get them back,” said Morgan over the phone, two days after drawing up the petition and seeing the number of signatures jump to 600 in 48 hours.
A week later, Morgan’s enthusiasm (as well as many of his followers’) is still peaking. In the last week of February alone, he has seen columns written about him in local media, been interviewed on WBTV and appeared on WFNZ, Charlotte’s most popular sports talk radio station, multiple times. He plans to appear on WTVI some time in the first week of March.
He can’t even remember the name of the radio show he appeared on in Winston Salem or the one he plans to appear on in Charleston because of how much attention he’s been getting in such little time. “I can’t keep it straight, but it’s exhilarating,” he said.
Not all of the media has been supportive. A column written by Tom Sorenson in a Sunday edition of the Charlotte Observer asked Hornets proponents an important question: “Would you continue to buy if your team failed to win?”
Morgan believes the change could be a morale boost to the city, the fans and, therefore, the team. “It would be an absolute blockbuster. It’s not something I just feel, I know that. It be an automatic boom,” Morgan said.
Although thousands of fans are getting behind him, not everyone agrees. Season ticket holder Konata Edwards thinks the hype is erasing part of Charlotte’s more modern history.
“All the people that want the Hornets back don’t remember how important the Bobcats were in revitalizing uptown,” he said. “Without the Bobcats and the arena they brought, there would be no Epicentre or Ritz Carlton. There would be no reason for any of that.”
“People weren’t coming here for concerts back then. You can forget about the DNC even thinking about coming here if the Bobcats weren’t here,” he said.
Edwards lets out a long sigh. “I don’t know if it’s more frustrating or sad.” He believes that the new movement is based on negativity as opposed to support.
“If they change the name the complaints will be aimed at the talent. People will say ‘These aren’t the Hornets I remember,’” he said. “People who don’t want to embrace the team or don’t believe in this team never will; whether it’s the arena, Bob Johnson, Michael Jordan, the name, a preference for college basketball or anything else.”
Morgan insists he simply wants what’s best for the team that he loves. “I’m a basketball fan. I’m a Charlotte fan. I’m a fan of what’s in my home, my city. I would never go bag on the Bobcats or say not to support the Bobcats,” he said.
Sorenson quoted Pete Guelli, Bobcats chief sales and marketing officer, as saying that the change would cost the team and city $3–5 million in his column.
Only days later, team officials were telling Morgan the estimate had jumped to somewhere between $7–10 million, Morgan said.
“I hate being pandered and talked to like an idiot,” said Morgan. “I’m as realistic as anyone, and I believe it can happen. Jordan and [management] didn’t get to where they are by not being good businessmen. If they want to stick their fingers in the air to see which way the winds blowing, they will see it. They know the Bobcats are a tepid brand.”
“[Social media] is what made it,” said Morgan. “People tweeting, reposting, messaging and all of that. It’s something we didn’t have at our disposal when all of the bad stuff went down with the original Hornets.”
Twitter has also given the movement a chance to reach out to some its true folk heroes. Former Hornets point guard Muggsy Bogues responded to a tweet from the feed on Feb. 28th with his own endorsement: “I love it..so much tradition!”
As of now it seems like a shot in the dark, but the support in the city is seemingly growing every day. If the day does ever come, however, when a Charlotte Hornet steps back on the court, Morgan is ready.
“I have my white tux, my teal tank top and my purple handkerchief,” he said. “I’m wearing it all to that first game.”
Social media stats updated at 5:30 p.m. ET, Mar. 2, 2012.