Charlotte Sports Fans Campaign for Bobcats-to-Hornets Rebranding

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Take a trek through any street in the bustling metropolitan area and it will not take long before you see young people sporting throwback Hornets gear. Spend the whole day in Charlotte, and you will be lucky to find a single person wearing an item of Bobcats merchandise.

It has been a sight both sentimental and confusing. After all, the Charlotte Hornets wrapped up their final season ten years ago, but that hasn’t stopped a group of nostalgic Carolinians from trying to reclaim their beloved sports franchise.

The group has been prudent and ever growing one from the very beginning less than two years ago. With the help of a Facebook page, petition and a social media campaign, the group has been successful in making their purpose clear and compelling.

So who exactly is at the helm of the movement? Mostly 30-year-old elementary school teacher John Morgan. Alongside Scotty and Evan Kent, Morgan created the petition and scheduled several events to bring attention to the interest group.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Morgan about his role with the Charlotte Hornets revival movement and what stands between them and a potential rebranding.

Morgan refers to his commitment to the movement as “on-call,” as he does not necessarily commit specific lapses of time to campaigning, but is there to catalyze it when opportunities present themselves.

Still he admits, there is a routine. He begins every day the same way- by checking to see if there are any updates in the Buzz Movement community. He frequents New Orlean sports websites, Sports Nation (which recently expressed its support in the Buzz Movement) , ESPN and various social media outlets regularly.

“It’s becoming something of a sickness,” Morgan says. Morgan keeps himself uptodate in order to keep the supporters of the movement, the five thousand plus “Beelievers,” updated too.

Still, it’s not all about hopeful Facebook posts and Tweets with Morgan and the Kents. The group is openly involved and interactive with the community in order to raise support.

Most recently, the group did their second “Swarm Time Warner” event, where the group’s Beelievers dressed in throwback attire and flooded section 229 at the Bobcats vs Knicks game in order to voice their support for the rebranding. Shortly after, the group hosted a Hornets-themed draft lottery and trivia party in Pineville which they raised over $700 for the Metro School of Charlotte.

Currently, the movement is in a standstill until New Orleans (the current owner of the Hornets name) puts the wheels in motion. Tom Benson has openly expressed his distaste for the team’s franchise, as its name is closely related to the identity of North Carolina and not Louisiana.

“Once they announce their new direction, we can start really pushing our Message with the kind of zeal that something like this will require. That’s been the most beautiful thing about this experience; so many people want this change. Fans from all over the world have pounced on any and every opportunity to spread the buzz,” Morgan said.

The movement has received criticism for being monetarily nonviable. According to the Bobcats’ chief sales and marketing officer Pete Guelli, the rebranding would cost $3 million to $5 million. If Charlotte finds away to reclaim the Hornets name, there is little doubt that merchandise and ticket sales would not skyrocket. But many fear that without wins, those numbers aren’t likely to be sustainable.

“One way or the other, you have to win more games,” Morgan said when I asked him if he would equate the effects of a rebranding to that of the Bobcats playing better.

“There’s no guarantee that the wins will come on a regular basis. A lot of factors that go into building a successful franchise are out of the organization’s control- market size, the whims of superstar free agents, the luck of the draw. You know what they can control? Their identity; their sense of self. When it comes to marketability, the Charlotte Hornets had it, the Charlotte Bobcats don’t. Bottom line.”

Morgan and Scotty and Evan Kent intend to organize more ‘Swarm’ events as the season approaches. According to Morgan, much of their plans depend on how quickly New Orleans moves with their side of the rebrand. When that time comes, Morgan plans to organize a rally.

“That’s one of the good things about being a loose coalition of rabble-rousers: we can pretty much just throw down when we feel the need,” Morgan said.

The support for the interest group grows daily. This might be because the movement evokes a fervent sense of nostalgia that still lingers after ten years. But as Morgan explains, it’s more than that.

“This movement isn’t about fostering some flash-in-the-pan fad,” he said. “It’s about creating a long-term, sustainable model that our kids and our kids’ kids can root for for generations to come. It’s about taking a franchise that’s about as low as it can be, and providing an immediate jolt of enthusiasm.”

With the new record for the worst season in NBA history claimed by the Charlotte Bobcats last season and dwindling merchandise sales, an immediate jolt of enthusiasm may be just what Charlotte needs.


This article was originally published on Yahoo! News through the Yahoo Contributor Network which was shut down in July 2014. For more content by this author that was originally published on Yahoo! News, click here