I suspect most fans won’t be aware of this—and it’s probably not the sort of thing franchise owners would publicize—but the folks changing the name of the New Orleans Hornets to the New Orleans Pelicans are giving the team a profoundly Catholic, even Eucharistic, name.
I first posted on this over the summer, referring to the prominent figure on the Louisiana state flag:
According to legend, in a time of famine a mother pelican would draw blood from her own chest and give the blood to her chicks.
Thus the pelican symbol in Christianity, also called pelican-in-her-piety, symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (because he gave his blood for others) as well as the Eucharist (because it represents Christ’s blood and provides spiritual nourishment).
The flag of Louisiana consists of a heraldic charge called a “pelican in her piety,” representing a mother pelican wounding her breast to feed her young from the blood. This symbol, emblematic of Christian charity, is also found on the state seal. On the flag it is depicted above a ribbon with the state motto: “Union, Justice, and Confidence”. The current flag was adopted in 2006, revising the original pelican design of 1912.
During the 19th century it was traditional in Louisiana flags and the state seal for the “pelican in her piety” to have three drops of blood on her chest. However, in later years the tradition (on both the state flag and seal) had been haphazardly followed, which was noticed by an eighth-grader at Vandebilt Catholic High School in Houma who brought this to the attention of his state legislator. The issue was resolved in April 2006, when the Louisiana State Legislature passed a bill (House Bill 833/Act 92) which requires three drops of blood to be depicted on the pelican used in both the state’s flag and seal. The new state flag, featuring a new design, was recently unveiled during swearing-in ceremonies of new state officials.
Move over, Padres and Saints (and, by extension I guess, Cardinals). The Catholic sports universe is about to get a little bigger.
Meantime, the benevolent and self-sacrificing ideal of the pelican image will likely undergo a revamp for basketball fans. One proposed design for the mascot is shown below.