CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - When NBA sharpshooter Joe Harris was winning the 3-Point-Contest during the NBA All-Star Game festivities in Charlotte this past weekend, he probably didn’t realize he may be getting a lot of new fans for a reason unrelated to his basketball skills.
When asked by a host after the competition what he planned to do with the trophy he’d won, Harris replied, “I’m actually going to send this to the University of Charlotte because they let me practice when I came here so I promised it to them.”
The response from Harris incorrectly naming the school sparked a flurry of tweets on social media. The NBA star had reignited a conversation that’s been commonplace among many UNC Charlotte students and alumni for years: ‘should the university change its name?’
“(Harris) said he was gonna give the trophy to the University of Charlotte and that kind of got everyone sparked up and talking about it again,” said Ryan Benson, a UNC Charlotte alum.
Hours after Harris’ remarks hit the web, a new petition to change the school’s name was launched on the website change.org and several people began using the hashtag #DropTheUNC on social media.
“We want people to have pride in our school and not to be like, ‘oh wait are you Chapel Hill?’ We’re not. We’re our own institution and we deserve our own identity,” said UNC Charlotte student Grace Fendrick.
Bradin Routh, a UNC Charlotte alum, said it’s common that people will mistake UNC Charlotte for UNC Chapel Hill. This irks many of the UNC Charlotte faithful.
“We want to have our own brand and not be confused with Carolina or anything like that,” explained Routh.
Buffie Stephens, Director of Issues Management and Media Relations at UNC Charlotte, said that it would require action from the General Assembly to change the name of a school within the UNC System. In a 2018 article from the Niner Times, the student-run UNC Charlotte newspaper, the university’s chancellor, Phil Dubois, is quoted as saying he’s ‘passively against’ changing the name of the school.
“I just think it’s a big project. We got so many more important things we need to worry about,” Dubois told the Niner Times.
UNC Charlotte student Eryn Brace told WBTV she also thinks the university’s name should be left unchanged.
“How long has the name been UNC Charlotte? Why change it now?” questioned Brace.
Benson argues that the name change would be worth any time, effort and money required to make it happen.
“We need people to know we’re not UNC. We’re not a community college. We are our own thing,” elaborated Benson.
The First 49, a grassroots organization of Charlotte 49er fans and alumni, sent WBTV the following statement regarding a potential name change:
Our aspiration is not so much about dropping UNC but rather adopting University of Charlotte. This would strengthen our brand in recognition of Charlotte’s growth into world class city, alleviate confusion and better allow us to fulfill our mission as the NC’s urban research institute.
Jacob Baum, Speaker Pro Tempore of the UNC Charlotte Student Government Association, announced on Twitter Tuesday night that the student body will be polled next month regarding a potential name change for the university.