The New Orleans Pelicans are in the midst of PR problem as news emerges about Zion Williamson, CJ McCollum, and an embarrassing marketing blooper.
The Pelicans have had it tough as a franchise, trading away players intended to be cornerstones such as Anthony Davis, Lonzo Ball, and Chris Paul, among others.
When New Orleans pinned hope on Duke stunner Zion Williamson in 2019, it was meant to be a turning point for the team. Since then, Williamson has been severely limited by injury, rivaling Greg Oden in terms of games played in his first three seasons.
With Williamson severely set back by his foot injury, the Pelicans brought in CJ McCollum from Portland to boost a team that has been steadily climbing toward a play-in spot. The Pels have lost four out of five games since the McCollum trade, but that’s the least of their problems when it comes to public image. The Pelicans are in the midst of a PR crisis that seems to be snowballing each day, and it began when CJ McCollum revealed that Zion Williamson had yet to welcome him to the Pelicans.
Since then, journalists have confirmed that Williamson has reached out to McCollum and the two have spoken, but the damage this caused Zion’s reputation has been done. Fellow Duke alumnus and former Pelicans teammate JJ Redick went in on Zion, calling him a “detached teammate” whose failure to reach out demonstrated a “pattern of behavior” with which Redick is familiar.
“This is basic level of humanity being a teammate: send a text to a guy when he gets traded to your team,” Redick said.
Once again, Williamson’s relationship with the Pelicans is in the spotlight as onlookers speculate as to why it took Zion several days and severe public shaming to reach out to McCollum.
Pelicans drama with Zion Williamson, CJ McCollum continues over rocky week
The Pelicans marketing team has been sending their own mixed messages about Williamson, as well as a blunder in their own effort to welcome McCollum to New Orleans. When the Pelicans were promoting their new season, CJ McCollum featured prominently in the photo—in the wrong jersey number. McCollum has kept his No. 3 jersey from his time with the Trail Blazers.
The Pelicans also sent an additional message in recent email marketing: they are no longer featuring Zion Williamson as their main draw to future Pels games.
For now, Zion is still rehabbing his foot in Oregon and has been reportedly out of communication with his teammates for weeks. Despite the jersey faux pas, the Pelicans emails indicate that McCollum has become the face of the franchise—for now, at least. While many Pels fans look to the many troubling reports to come out about Zion’s disinterest in getting back to full form, others note that the Pelicans have been dysfunctional and transient, making it impossible for the 21-year-old to realize his potential.
Whether or not Zion will become the franchise cornerstone many fans have hoped to see or become another traded New Orleans asset remains to be seen.