Seeing blue & red: Pelicans fans express emotions as team arrives at turning point

Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 10:02 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 12, 2022 at 10:05 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As the Pelicans prepare for their play-in game Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs, the team’s fan base is getting ready to show out.

New Orleans’ NBA franchise is enjoying a huge uptick in support, thanks in part to one fan club getting attention on social media.

“I feel like I’ve been a Pels fan ever since I was a little kid,” one fan said.

“Been a season ticket holder for 8 years,” said another.

Recent success aside, love for the New Orleans Pelicans is not a new trend.

“Ever since they switched to the franchise name, I’ve been with the Pels ever since,” another fan said.

The national sports narrative at times has painted New Orleans as a city not big enough for more than one professional sports franchise, even suggesting that the team would be better off moving to a bigger market.

“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” one supporter said.

“Screw that. The Pels are a basketball team. This is a basketball city and we’re here to stay,” another fan said.

“God I’m so angry, I get really angry when people talk about that. They’re talking about, ‘Oh let’s move this team to Seattle, do this...’ The team’s been here for like 20 years. Yeah, it’s not just going to start off immediately,” a fan said.

Enter the Pels 12.

Starting out as a direct rebuttal to a derisive tweet about lagging fan support from former Pelicans guard JJ Redick, the Pels 12 has since blown up on social media, and evolved into a full-grown fan club.

Sean Kline and Leona Robinson founded the Pels 12 fan club.

“We were a group of people who just wanted to watch Pelicans games with a group of friends. And, with the power of social media, we put it out there and a lot of people showed up,” Kline said.

Last Saturday’s road game against the Memphis Grizzlies didn’t quite go the Pelicans’ way, but the team would still end up clinching a home play-in game before the night ended.

The co-founders of the Pels 12 said they realized they had something when more than 100 people began showing up to random bars with them for watch parties on gamedays.

“There was a need and sort of desire to rally the fans around the team,” Kline said. “We reached out to some bars and here we are.”

“Yeah, it was a little bit surprising, just because we hadn’t seen that kind of fan base,” said bartender Shannon Johnson of the Mid-City Yacht Club.

Johnson said she was shocked the first time she saw the Pels 12 in action, knowing just how good it is for the city.

“We were sitting at the bar, she had just gotten off and we just looked up (at the crowded tavern) and were like, ‘Oh, we gotta go back there’ and so we both just clocked back in,” Johnson said.

“And I think if we can have that now after COVID, even if it’s a different sports team, even if it’s the Pelicans, like that same kind of energy can come through and help bring us back.”

No matter what happens in the postseason, the future is looking bright for the Pelicans.

“That’s all I’m looking for, is just a foundation for us to build on going forward,” Robinson said.

Even the players seem to be embracing the movement.

“It’s a bunch of young kids who want to play basketball together and it’s something we can all relate to,” Kline said. “It’s New Orleans, we love having fun. The team is embracing what this city is all about.”

And all these fans ask is for doubters to keep adding fuel to their fire... and please keep that same energy.

“There’s more than 12 of us,” Robinson said, “and we’re definitely here.”

Kline said, “Lafayette, Lake Charles, people are coming from everywhere and it’s because of that national narrative that there’s only 12 of us. But we are a basketball city, we’re a sports city. As long as it says New Orleans on the jersey, win or lose, we’re going to support that team.”

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