Hornets Hype

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This is a Limited Edition Ticktock6 exclusive, coming at you live from the basement. I have come out of retirement to create this categorized compendium of possible Hornets names.

Regarding “serious” names versus joke names… Well, that’s how it is with this sort of thing, isn’t it? A name one person comes up with as a serious suggestion, another person thinks is hilariously lame. So I have decided to categorize according to topic and not joke/non-joke. Hopefully you can decide whether something is a joke for yourself. Hopefully (which is the real trick) the official selection committee can also decide.

Please note that in the case of C or K names, we have the option of going all Golden State and being the Crescent City ____ instead of New Orleans. I have seen that idea kicked around a couple of places. I don’t necessarily like it, but it is an option.

If you have ideas that aren’t on here, please leave them in a comment!


Stuff That Is “Uniquely New Orleans”




Krewe (** See Big List of Singular Nouns, below, for more on this)








Potholes Filled With Water (Oh. Sorry, I had a bad drive home from work just now.)




Tanks (Because everyone’s got tanking on the brain, so why not go all the way! Also, the World War II Museum)


Quarter Rats


Street Sweepers

Death (Because of ghost/vampire lore… the logo would be a giant SKULL.)




Neutral Grounds


Swamp People



River Pirates




Pistols (As in Pete, not guns, but I doubt this would fly.)

Voodoo (It’s taken though)

Buccaneers (note that our ABA team was called this)




This is a nutria. It is a giant rat.





Nutria (These are giant rats. I am not making this up.)



Gators (Been done.)

Crawgators (I saw this somewhere. It is not a real thing. But fine. Sure. It’s an animal. Sigh.)

Shrimp (Seriously, what is wrong with people? Do you want the team to get beat up? No animal names unless it’s something mean. The cardinal rule of animal names, people.)



Foods: Because There Aren’t Enough Edible Teams



Jambalaya (Yes. In the singular. BOOM.)




Po Boys


Booze: Because Why Aren’t There More Teams Named After Booze?


Hand Grenades




Beer (In the singular. As is. The New Orleans Beer.)



Something That’s Like Jazz, You Know, Musical… Because We Can’t Have Jazz



Brass (Note that we used to have a minor league hockey team called this)

Bounce (What? Musical form that originated in New Orleans, you say? And everyone can shake their booty during timeouts! It will be H-O-T!)





Funk (GUYS. And it has a DUAL MEANING. Music, and the smell of the standing water in the gutters on Bourbon Street!)

Hot Five

This is a Mardi Gras Indian

Mardi Gras Indians


Big Chiefs

Wild Men (I would totally root for this team. Just saying.)

Wild Tchoupitoulas (I am extremely partial to names the national media will not get/be able to pronounce.)


List of Singular Nouns Which, Like Neck Tattoos, I Am Against In Principle But Some of Which May Be Marginally Acceptable


Krewe (I personally find this better than most singular names due to the fact that, like a team, a Krewe is a group of people. If we are the Krewe, I prefer to be the Krewe of New Orleans instead of the New Orleans Krewe. The reasons being twofold: 1) It matches Mardi Gras Krewe nomenclature, ie: they are all Krewe of ____, 2) It yields the abbreviation of KNO rather than NOK, which would remind people too much of the Hornets’ much-hated Oklahoma City stint after Katrina.)



Brass (this is a popular suggestion, and appears above under Music, but it is also a dreaded Singular)




Big Easy

Humidity (When we played the Heat, things would get sweaty.)



Breeze (Ho Ho, we have a player named Drew Brees. We won’t forever, doofwads. Plus this name sucks.)

Bayou (I guess my thing here is the same as with animal names. The first evaluating question should be, “CAN IT KILL YOU? OR AT LEAST FUCK YOU UP?” If not, probably best to move on.)


Carnival (Or the Crescent City Carnival, as opposed to New Orleans. How alliterative.)




Names Which Are Counterparts to “Saints” But Which Are Mostly Lame



Archangels (and its Gil McGregor-esque pun twin, Arc Angels… shudder… No, look, I could hardly type it. I WOULD DIE.)


Crunk (After the Saints’ touchdown song, naturally! Actually, can we just do this? I would put aside my aversion to singular names to be the New Orleans Crunk.)


Names That Really Are a Joke. Really.


Latter Day Saints

Polygamists (the idea being that Salt Lake City gets so offended at the proposal of these names, they trade Jazz back to us)


… The Twitter Section’s pet idea. Please note that both S’s in Hustlers will appear as dollar signs on the jerseys. We designed this team’s entire concept during the 3rd quarter of Hornets/Jazz. It has meanings on multiple levels. 1) Basketball players who hustle– the innocent meaning that you save for Grandma, 2) Drug dealers– let’s face it, we have a lot of drug dealers in New Orleans, 3) Dudes who scam you by asking you where you got your shoes, 4) There is in fact a Hustler Club on Bourbon Street. The team colors are green, chrome, and diamond. (You will have to ask @LSUhornet17 what the color diamond entails, exactly.) After wins, they drop fake dollar bills instead of confetti. There is a massive built-in array of songs and sound clips involving Hustlers. Instead of “The Hive” the arena shall be referred to as “The Club.” What’s the  logo? Glad you asked. This.


Wishful Fucking Thinking



They say that every sport is all about winning.  Unless you can’t.  So what’s left then?  Watching the sport.  Is that so bad?  Before you reply, consider this: I’m talking about one season.  One Lockout-shortened season.  After which our team has two first round draft-picks.  And maybe more, pending a possible Kaman trade.  So is it so bad to watch basketball excellence for a half, to stop playing in the third, followed by a final, futile comeback in the fourth; or a tight game through three quarters, only to be followed by a massive collapse in the fourth?  It’s frustrating, I know.  But, based on the fast-paced back and forth nature of the game, followed by the expectation of better tomorrows to come, I think it’s safe to say it’s gonna be okay.  You just have to change your mindset a bit.

General Manager Dell Demps and Coach Monty Williams both come from the San Antonio organization and, in many ways, model this franchise on that one, hoping to replicate the same success through finding the right pieces, the right attitudes, and employing the right system–starting from the ground up.  Consider their model, the Spurs, which, in 1995-1996, were 59-23, ultimately losing in the Western Conference semi-finals.  The next year, their superstar center, David Robinson, went down with an injury, and the team was 20-62, and failed to even make the playoffs.  That offseason, the ping pong balls delivered them Tim Duncan.  The next season, with Robinson back, the Spurs went on to a 56-23 season, and again made it to  the Western Conference semis.  The following year the Spurs won it all.  And from there, a dynasty was born, with 4 Larry O’Briens in 9 years.

Is Monty the next Popovich?  Will injured shooting guard Eric Gordon be our David Robinson?  And will one or both of our ping pong balls deliver us the League’s next superstar?  I don’t know.  But I believe this team, with all its injuries, bad luck, and lack of practice time, will come back next year: hungry, angry, rested, practiced, and ready to demolish the rest of the League.  If there’s one thing that can be said about this team is that it tries.  Some losing teams give up; you can see it in their play, and in the looks on their faces.  Not these guys.  Their effort, night to night, and coming so close, again and again, is admirable.  So, next year, assuming the team is healthy, I expect the Hornets to return to the Playoffs.  But, that said, how do we, as fans, survive this season?  And as an esteemed member of the Hornets’ Twitter group, #twittersection asked last night, why do we come back next year?  Because there is plenty to enjoy, losses be damned.  America derides losses, but sometimes loses the trees for the forest.

All we have to do is just be fans.  It’s not that hard.  You think Belinelli worries about the last shot he missed?  You think Okafor wonders on each defensive rotation whether he blocked the last shot that came his way?  We all love basketball.  We need to do that.  Let’s love what we can, and let the rest fall away.  I’ve been told repeatedly by casual fans that they love the experience of the Hornets games, win or lose.  Bring the kids.  Cheer loud.  Enjoy the Arena’s house jazz band.  Enjoy the middle school drum line.  Cross your fingers that the halftime show is that lady that tosses the bowls on her head.  Enjoy the Mardi Gras Baby, King, and Jester race, the dance cam, and the kiss cam.  It’s all part of the basketball experience.  There’s no reason more serious basketball fans can’t do the same thing.  Join the cheers, clap, and berate Dick Bavetta and the other Donaghy-type refs.  And if you’re watching at home, crack a beer (or five) and watch (or tweet or live-blog) with friends.  Talk about what works, criticize what doesn’t.  But just watch the sport, and keep your eyes off the final score.

Above all, let go of your expectations.  Don’t get wrapped up in hoping for wins in this 2011-2012 season.  As ADAA champion, Peter La Fleur, once said: “I found that if you have a goal, that you might not reach it. But if you don’t have one, then you are never disappointed. And I gotta tell ya, it feels phenomenal.”  Look how that worked out for La Fleur: he ended up winning it all.  Regardless, that’s how Hornets fans will survive this season: no expectations.  Don’t focus on the outcome, but the moment-to-moment minutia that made you love basketball in the first place.

Marvel at the improvement in Okafor’s offensive game.  Appreciate those times Jack finds the right shots just behind a screener and pulls up for a mid-range, open jumper; and his fast penetration dribble that causes problems, making the right pass once he draws in the defenders; rather than those other times when he dribbles the ball at the top of the key for 20 seconds.  Cheer for Marco off the bench to hit those trademark off-balance jumpers, and those long threes that send the Italian flags running around the arena.  Watch Aminu grow into the NBA game, using his length and athleticism to defend and rebound, and look for that moment when he will figure out his offensive role, and the purpose that will make him dangerous. Smile at Jason Smith’s open jumpers hitting bottom, followed by a vicious block on the other end; and stop being surprised when he takes his man off the dribble and throws it down.  Stand up and holler like a madman when Vasquez and Ayon take over games with their high energy offense-defense tandem: Ayon slipping the pick and Vasquez making a bounce pass through traffic for an easy lay-in,  Ayon getting the deflection on the other end, and outletting to Vasquez on a break, which ends in the athletic Summers dunking it over a scrambling defender.  Take pride in the success hard work can bring, as evidenced by 29-year-old rookie and Nola product, Squeaky Johnson, leading the second unit.  Watch Xavier Henry work his way back into the rotation after injury, and believe everything will be okay once Gordon does the same.  Above all, enjoy the passion with which this team plays moment-to-moment, working so hard to play their best.  Because, as fans, what more can we ask?

It’s okay, Hornets fans.  It’s not always about the wins.  Some seasons, it’s just not in the cards.  But, if you love the sport, seeing three-fourths of a great game from your team can be enough.  Take a deep breath, enjoy what you can, get mad when the defense doesn’t rotate fast enough or the refs blow a call.  But don’t sweat it when the team loses by 2, again.  Believe this is just one season.  One Lockout-shortened season.  With current team owner, Stern, picking those ping pong balls in June.  Think back to the conspiracy theories about how the Knicks got Ewing and the Spurs got Duncan.  Believe it’s our turn next.  That’s part of your solace.

Let the anger and frustration from the results wash away.  It’s all we can do.  Unless you can hoop better than these guys and can finagle a try-out before the add deadline, you can’t control the outcome, you can only watch.  But you can survive.  As New Orleanians know, sometimes that’s enough.

So watch the games, get excited, and cheer for the Hornets on every play.  Our guys are trying hard, they deserve our support.  If you watch, you will still see great basketball and be entertained.  Just don’t expect wins.  Not this year.  But that’s okay.  Sometimes the trip is more important than the destination.  Winners are forged in fire.  What today’s ordeal brings will be bound to tomorrow’s successes.  So hang tight.  We’re in this together.  The team is frustrated, the fans are frustrated.  But believe that this will make us all stronger.

Believe that this season is an aberration; ignore the standings.  Have no expectations other than to watch an intense competition.  Enjoy the little things done right this year.  Because it is those things, combined with health and some talented new rookies, that will lead to success next year.  That’s how Hornets fans survive the 2011-2012 season.

Narrative Me This

By on June 11, 2011

Two teams, putting nine months of grind, exhaustive hours of coaching, film, and analysis, with rote dedication to mastering what some call a game, culminating in a determined fight to prove your team is the best in the world, while enveloped in millions of obsessive fans cheering and jeering every move, tells a story on its own.  That effort, that focus, which extols basketball as an endeavor of peak physical greatness and strategic mental acuity should be what these NBA Playoffs are about.

Or do you need the storyline explained to you? I’d like to believe there are plenty of fans around the world able to watch one of the greatest Playoffs in NBA history on their own, who will allow the Game’s brilliance to shine on its own.  Yet, the way some media outlets would have it, we need to be told over and over and over again the pre-fabricated storylines, written by moneymen, agents, and marketing people.  Case in point: the narrative that the speedy highlight factory, who, admittedly, is a maestro around the rim, but shot less than 40% from the field this Playoffs, and only 25% from deep (though attempting over long balls 6 a game), and had half as many turnovers a game as assists, is not only the best point guard of all time, but the best player in the League.  At least that’s what ESPN and TNT were selling before Derrick Rose’s exit stage left.

But I wasn’t buying.  I’ll make my own decisions, thank you very much.  If I want to know which point guard can dominate like no other in the League, I’m forgetting the TV commentary and replaying the Hornets-Lakers series; I’ll let my eyes tell me the truth.  Even on replay, I’ll let my soul feel Chris Paul’s heart and drive to win, even if he does play on a small market team.

Being the best, apparently, is not enough. It’s location, location, location.  Take Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudamire.  Are they great players?  Sure.  But I don’t care any more about them because they play in Madison Square Garden than I would if they were still in Phoenix or Denver.  The only reason I do care about them is because the people who think a collection of superstars without any regard for chemistry or strategy will deliver a championship are looking for a point guard to get NY to the next level, and our very own Hornets’ small cannon is number one on their list.  The fact is, New York Cityites are convinced that they deserve the biggest, best, greatest of everything (well, who wouldn’t want to be a Yankee, Giant, Ranger, Knick, etc.?): without regard for the fact that Chris Paul is the personal savior of basketball in New Orleans, could be elected governor tomorrow if he retired rather than be traded to the Knicks, and is, in fact, small.  Though he is the best and greatest.

Man, I can still see CP and Trevor Ariza at the podium after beating the Lakers, all smiles.  That’s what it’s about.  Those post-victory smiles.  Still gives me chills.  Yet, for some strange reason, Chris Paul, sans New York, does not appear to be part of the manufactured NBA narrative.  Why?

Paul is one of the greatest point guards ever, a once in a generation talent.  Yet, before the Playoffs, he had one national television appearance this year.  Let that sink in.  The Knicks had ten.  And that was before they added ‘Melo.  Ten.  I don’t need to be told the storied history of the Garden, I don’t need to know how many points Kobe or Lebron scored their last time there, nor do I need to be told Willis Reed won’t be walkin’ through that door.  Fuck that.  I’ll watch in amazement as Zack Randolph and Marc Gasol dominate from the #8 seed.  I’ll watch Darren Collison show up the presumptive, and ultimate (albeit imposter) MVP.  I’ll sit, rapt, and horrified as the Hawks take revenge on a discombobulated  Magic, despite one of the most impressive series performances I’ve ever seen, as Dwight Howard, even in defeat, shot 63% from the field and averaged 27-16-2 (all the more impressive considering that the small six-game sample size was twisted by his 8-8-1 performance in that Game 5 victory).  Give me more Durant, Westbrook, Harden, and the baby Thunders.  Because I can see the excellence in all that, in itself.  On its face.  The story is already written.

But that’s not good enough.  I mean, we haven’t even gotten to Lebron as-I-prefer-“Viscount” James.  His rise and fall is pre-scripted, and should be a TV movie any day now; or a Japanese anime.  But, it’s surfeit; even “professional writers” can’t say anything about James any more without just being penned paparazzi.  Some people call this hating, but I simply don’t be need to told anything about James at this point.  Literally.  I’ve already been told everything I need to know about him.  He’s greater than any player ever, and he was MVP the day he was born.  Yet, he’s never won championship.  Kobe has 5.  MJ 6.  Bill Russell 11.  So when you’re doing first name greatest last name ever calculus consider that Shaq won a championship with Kobe, Kobe won with Pau, Wade won one with Shaq, but Lebron couldn’t win even with Shaq.  (P.S.: never listen to Drake.  But I digress.)  The narrative, though, tells us that three great players (Wade, James, Bosh) can take a roster of 2 (Haslem, Chalmers), and a cast of hangers-on, and, through Pat Riley’s force of will, win a championship.  Or as Lebron predicted: eight championships.  You know, more than Michael and Kobe, but less than Bill Russell.  At least the man’s humble.

One problem: the Heat aren’t a great team.  They have great players, sure.  And they have amassed a bunch of wins, but the Heat are a deeply flawed team.  Really, it’s the same equation as the Olympic team, but with different variables.  Those guys were not a great team.  (Except when CP3 rolled out the second unit; but, again, I digress.)  The key was they had twelve unbelievable players, at every position, and no one team could match up with that, no matter their coaching or cohesion.  The Heat, however, have three great players, and despite all their talent, not enough to tie them together to make them a great team.  All year, teams have proven they were beatable (including the Hornets), and the Playoffs have only exposed a horribly weak Eastern conference, where Rondo and Shaq’s injuries were the biggest keys to victory for the Heat, followed by an entirely overrated, if effective, Bulls team.  Funny thing is, Stern and the League got a gift from the results: a Finals consisting of players colluding to form a superteam, with others taking pittance to make roster; against the second highest paid team in the League, paying over $20M more than most teams, to put together this übermensch team.

What greater evidence could you have that the League needs more equity?  Greedy players and greedy owners are ruining parity.  The League needs to level the playing field and save itself.  And what better way to make that case by pointing out all the future free agents will gather in a few select cities, and that teams owned by willing-to-spend billionaires may just buy their way to a winning team.  The next three highest paid teams are the Lakers, Magic, and Celtics.  Remember a Finals before this year when none of these four teams were in it?.  Me neither.  On the flip side, Miami, New York, and Chicago are just the beginning for the talent emigration without a new CBA.

But the 2011 Finals themselves?  Unbelievable.  The closest Finals ever, and getting the high ratings it deserves, despite all the beat writers and TV analysts trying to tell us their stories.  But the Mavs and Heat have their own stories.  It’s in their eyes.  Anyone who’s ever questioned Dirk Nowitski’s will to win need only look into his greyish blue hues to be rebuked.  Same with Terry.  You can talk about his his “jet” antics all you want, but the look in his eyes reflects the tattoo on his right bicep of the Larry O’Brien trophy.

As for James, Wade, and Bosh?  Only Wade has the experience and wherewithal to understand his surroundings, but even behind the assassin-like edge in his eyes is a glimmer of entitlement.  As for James, that’s the only thing.  You see, he knew he’d make the NBA and be successful there (keep in mind, coming out of high school, we roughly figured DeShawn Stevenson would be the next MJ too), knew he could lead the NBA in scoring at will, get a few MVPs, and, of course, roll in the dough, er, I mean championships.  You’ll excuse me if I don’t let him dictate the narrative either, and refuse to use words rhyming with “mobile” and “icahn.”  Bosh, well, no hit on him, but he just doesn’t have “it.”  Ask Robert Horry, Manu, or James Posey about it someday, Chris.

The media herd of sharks, not content to go into a feeding frenzy at the sight of blood, is eager to write about said blood to create the frenzy.  These writers panning Lebron everywhere now were the same ones lauding him before this series.  All these “analysts” were saying how Lebron had put his fourth quarter woes behind him after the Boston and Chicago series.  Two series among six years of playoffs is not a reliable marker.  But it fit the narrative.  Create a star and tear him down.  It’s bullshit.  Just speak the truth from day one and you won’t have to worry about re-writing the storylines.  Similarly,  the lazy narrative of “whose team is it?” pervades.  The question should be how can Spoelstra scheme around Wade-James-Bosh, and how has he done it?  But that question requires analysis, not gossip, which makes it hard.  So the major media takes a pass.

Many League people, notably the Hornets’ Hugh Weber, have panned blogs and internet media as amateurs in their basements, wearing pajamas, barely worth the word “writer.”  But anyone out there who follows the games, who is connected on Twitter, and who reads enough blogs, knows that these people do a better job than 85.3% of major media, and 102.5% better job than TV analysts.  Personally, I’d like to read about how the Mavs’ late-game switches to the zone impact the Heat’s iso progressions; but, I guess some people prefer “Mama, there goes that man.”  Hope those people are Warriors fans.

So to those of you who have attacked the false narrative prevalent in the major media all year, and particularly now, in the Finals, my metaphorical hat is off to you ladies and gents.  To the rest?  Shame on you.  Journalism is supposed to be about what happens, described.  Imposing a forced version of that makes you no better than the people behind of the Rich, unrepresentative, Housewives of Wherever, at best; or, spitting empty rhetoric with no actual facts behind it, like Rush Limbaugh or so many “talk radio” personalities, at worst.  Anyone remember the pre-game interview with David Aldridge–when he may or may not have been drunk–alleging that the Hornets were demanding a new arena and that “many coaches” around the League were complaining about the officiating against the NBA-owned Hornets?  That fell into the latter category.

As for these Finals?  The coaches and players of two fine teams will deliver the final chapter to the 2010-2011 season.  But, if you want to skip ahead to the end, just look into Dirk’s eyes.

The New Orleans Hornets are currently one of two teams (the Oklahoma Thunder being the other) that start each game with an Arena-wide, pre-game prayer.  This strange occurrence is a hybrid of religious zeal and moneymaking, as the Hornets sell this slot of proselytizing to the highest bidder.   While I’ve been told that anyone can pay for the privilege of delivering this prayer, and, indeed, we’ve heard Jewish Rabbis come forward multiple times, nine times out of ten it’s a Christian prayer. In contrast, I have yet to hear an atheist step on the hardwood and dedicate a few moments to reason and logic, wish the players well, admit that each player’s health is a motley mix of conditioning and pure chance, and wish them the best. Instead, we are subjected to a game day prayer to Jesus (no, they rarely say his name, but they almost always say something similar to “In Your Name We Pray,” it’s not hard to read between the lines) to  ask the big guy in the sky to bestow good health to the players on both sides of the floor. What’s missed in the well wishes is the excessive entanglement with religion in a place where it is simply out of place.

The Hornets, as opposed to, say, LSU, or Benjamin Franklin High, are a private institution, not run by the state or any of its many subdivisions. This means, strictly speaking, many Constitutional provisions that would guarantee freedom, equality, and non-discrimination do not apply to the Hornets; that is, unless the team determines that such values correspond to its corporate mission. Private institutions, otherwise, are, in part, free to espouse whatever values they want. For example, you’ve no doubt seen Chick-Fil-A around town. They have an expressly Christian value-system built into their corporate ethos, and have even been known to fund anti-gay causes. The New Orleans City Council can’t do that, but Chick-Fil-A is free to hate whomever they want.

The rub is that the Fourteenth Amendment allows Congress to prescribe prophylactic remedies, such as Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) laws, and these statutes can touch even private institutions. The basic gist is that employees cannot be discriminated in the workplace because of race, religion, sex, nationality, etc. There is a “religious organization” exception, i.e., if the organization’s purpose and affiliation is overtly religious, such as a church, or if the company’s or charity’s articles of incorporation state a religious purpose. The NBA is not one of these groups. As such, its non-discrimination policy reads:

Equal employment opportunity is a fundamental principle at the NBA. Accordingly, the NBA’s EEO Policy provides that all employment decisions will be based on merit and valid job qualifications and will be made without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, alienage or citizenship status, ancestry, marital status, creed, genetic predisposition or carrier status, sexual orientation, veteran status, familial status, or any or status or characteristic protected by applicable federal, state or local law.

I added the emphasis to the above quote.  So how is this relevant to the Hornets? Because the NBA owns the Hornets. Therefore, every single Hornets employee is an NBA employee.  Hornets’ blogger, Joe Gerrity, was recently brave enough to question the Hornets’ pre-game prayer. Although the poll Hornets247 ran concomitantly with that article is gone, approximately 65% of people were in favor of the pre-game prayer, about 25% were against it, and the remainder didn’t care. But that is precisely the point of anti-discrimination statutes: to preclude a majority of people from discriminating against the minority.

For Christians whose beliefs are in-line with the pre-game prayer, it is an innocuous blessing. For those of opposing beliefs, it may be less so. And for those that believe in no higher power, but instead rely upon science, logic, ethics, and reasoning to guide their lives, the entire thing is a travesty. The point is not which side is “right.” The point is, if it is opposed by as many as a quarter of the people who care, it should be done away with, regardless of NBA rules.  Why stir such strong sentiments when they are ultimately irrelevant to the product produced by the NBA?

Regardless, the NBA’s own anti-discrimination policy forbids the pre-game prayer. Similarly, if my private, non-religious employer decided to start the work day with a prayer, there is no doubt that it would violate the tenets of the EEO Act. It is harassment. Plain and simple. If you’re a Christian, it probably is not. If you’re a non-Christian it is. End of story. This is the part that is difficult for the dominant, Christian majority to get: some people are offended by your religion.

Think about this: if we were talking about basketball at a public school, like either of the aforementioned LSU or Benjamin Franklin High, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that an opening prayer would violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Religion”), which is applied to the states and their subdivisions by the Fourteenth Amendment. There are a number of similarly decided lawsuits related to high school football games that are squarely on point.  This is because governments and their many subdivisions are precluded from favoring any religion over any other religion, or even favoring believing in any religion over believing in none at all.

If a pre-game prayer at a public school is viewed as religious coercion, excessive entanglement with religion, a message sent to a minority that they are outsiders, or an establishment of a “normative” religious belief (all language used by the U.S. Supreme Court), why, just because the Hornets are a private organization, would the team want to do something so blatantly discriminatory, when it doesn’t need to go there at all? Basketball should be inclusive, not decisive; sport is about bringing together people of all sorts to witness elite competition, to see others striving for physical perfection: not an opportunity for ecumenical proselytizing to a captive audience.

Arguably, sport is the antithesis of religion. It involves physical contact, facts, strategies, cause and effect. Religion involves intangibles, faith, and suspension of disbelief. Players cannot afford to trust in god they won’t get hurt; they have to stretch and condition. Players can’t just pray they make their shots; they practice, practice, and then practice more. Nor do coaches read the Bible in search of parables in lieu of drawing up X and O plays.  The prodigal son doesn’t know how to defeat a zone.  

Many players and coaches are religious, and that is fine. That is their personal belief. But in opposition to religion; where people are supposed to merely trust that their traditions, priests, and God have their best interests in mind and are subsumed by acquiescence to belief in a omnipotent benevolence, no questions asked; NBA players and coaches cannot afford to simply do what has always been done: they must evolve,they must innovate.  To be elite in the NBA, players and coaches have to watch game film, strategize, and think through each game plan and opponent: reasoning their way to success, practicing and honing those strategies on a daily basis, and executing them all at the highest level to achieve victory.  Thus, unlike religion, basketball is palpable, responsive, and falsifiable.

So even were the NBA not the Hornets’ owner, it is clear that religion has no place in the NBA. But seeing as the NBA is the Hornets’ owner, and all the team’s employees are Hornets employees, exposing them to religious prayer before every game is a form of religious intolerance; because, as the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear, religious discrimination is not just favoring one religion over any other, but favoring belief in religion over non-belief.  Twenty eight teams in the NBA get it right.  Two do not.  One, the New Orleans Hornets, is owned by an organization professing non-discriminatory principles. Yet, the Hornets’ pre-game prayer violates those principles every home game.

Forty-one times a year, the Hornets and the NBA offend me and many others.  Maybe more this year if the team makes the Playoffs.  It needs to change.