Mascot or No Mascot: That is the Question
Back on December 19, Chief Marketing Officer Meredith Starkey asked fans on Twitter whether or not Charlotte FC should have a mascot, which indicates that this is something that the team is seriously considering. The comment section was noticeably split, with some talking about mascots such as Philadelphia Flyers, Gritty, elevating a team's identity and being a great marketing tool for kids. Others, noting the history of the sport, felt there was no place for mascots in soccer. Still, Arsenal's Gunnersaurus stands as one example of how even the most historic clubs have embraced mascots in recent years.
MLS is a strange blending of soccer traditions from around the world with North American sports. Many of the league's teams have mascots, including Nashville SC, who just revealed "Tempo the Coyote" .
So, let's discuss the possibilities. Here are a few favorites that Charlotte FC should consider.
Gary The Glider & Tommy the Townie
Back when Charlotte FC was nameless, there was much debate about which one of the eight possible names the team might go with. There were popular options, such as Charlotte Crown, Charlotte Town, and the eventual choice Charlotte FC. There were also some widely panned options, including the seemingly unredeemable Carolina Gliders. That was until someone came up with the idea of "Gary the Glider." It is still not quite certain whether Gary is a flying squirrel (indigenous to the Carolinas) or a sugar glider (indigenous to Australia and Papua New Guinea). Still, he was certainly an instant favorite amongst supporters of the team. Many supporters even loved Gary so much that they actually wanted the Gliders to become the team name.
Not to be outdone, fans of the "Charlotte Town" name created Tommy the Townie, a mountain man in a coonskin cap, deerskin coat, and armed to the teeth ready to defend his town on the edge of the frontier. In the final weeks leading up to the reveal of the team's name, a rivalry broke out between the two characters trying to vie for supremacy, but in the end, neither of their names were chosen as the official name for the team. Regardless, both are an excellent example of mascots that were created organically by the team's supporters. For that reason, both should be in prime consideration.
Gary especially fits the bill as a unique mascot in the sports landscape. Imagine having him glide around the stadium and land on the field during games, similar to how the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars mascot, Jaxson D'ville, ziplines into their home stadium for games. He is also an animal, which generally makes mascots more popular with children. For now, we will give him the edge, but there is a strong case for having these two rivals united side by side in support of their club.
The Bull of Mecklenburg
At first glance, this might seem like a very odd choice, but when you consider Charlotte's history and the identity of the team, it actually makes a lot of sense. Charlotte is named after Queen Charlotte of House Mecklenburg, from the Mecklenburg region of northern Germany. This namesake is the reason why the county Charlotte is in is called Mecklenburg county.
The bull has been associated with both House Mecklenburg and the Mecklenburg region for at least 800 years for unknown reasons but has added additional features over time. The bull is generally depicted as a black bull (which of course is one of Charlotte FC's colors), but on Mecklenburg's coat of arms, it also features a crown on its head (which fits nicely with Charlotte FC's "crown" theme and crest). It is also almost always depicted with its tongue sticking out (which adds a whole extra level of humor for a mascot).
It would make sense that Charlotte's mascot, whatever it is, would wear a crown, and this might be a spot-on choice that already has connections with the history of Charlotte and Mecklenburg's namesake. As for a name for this fella (since "Bull of Mecklenburg" is a bit of a mouthful), let us consider "Mack" as a bit of a play on "Meck", the shortened version of "Mecklenburg." Mack, the Royal Bull, would be a great selection that would tie Charlotte's edition of the world's game with the city's foreign and historical legacy.
A Literal Queen
A mascot does not have to be a person inside a suit; it could just be a person. Consider Notre Dame's Leprechaun or Portland Timbers' Timer Joey as examples. If Charlotte were to go this route, an actual Queen would make a lot of sense. Imagine her royal highness triumphantly entering each match and sitting upon her throne near center field to oversee her team represent her and the city. Maybe even the players would pay their respects before kickoff. Kids would then be free to approach the throne and interact with the Queen during the game. She would serve as the human embodiment of the Queen city, not just the team itself. Queen Charlotte would be a unique mascot in sports all over the world and is worth consideration. Long live the Queen!
A Giant Coin
In my opinion, Charlotte FC is leaning into the "royal" legacy of the city's history and its history as both a mint and banking city. First, "minted" appears on the crest as a nod to Charlotte being home to the country's first branch mint (hence both the team's supporters group being named "Mint City Collective" and the stadium being located on Mint Street). They also made 2,022 limited edition coins for supporters to own. Even the word "crown" has connections to the British empire's currency when Charlotte was Queen of England. Additionally, Charlotte's rapid growth in the past 40 years is largely thanks to the growth of banks based in the city. With all that in mind, why not just make the mascot a giant coin?
Sometimes, mascots are just meant to be ridiculous (google "West Brom Boiler Man" to understand). So, what will the giant coin look like? Will it have a face? Will it be silver or gold? What will it be named? Who cares. It's a giant coin. It's perfect no matter what.
Rufus D Lynx
Most people would like to forget about the Charlotte Bobcats, and for good reason. That was a very dark period in the history of Charlotte basketball, and thank goodness, the Hornets are back (and maybe good again?). However, one piece of the Bobcats brand was generally liked and accepted by fans, and that's Rufus D. Lynx. Rufus, unfortunately, went into retirement in 2014 when the Hornets returned, but maybe there is indeed a permanent home for Rufus as a representative of Charlotte FC.
A Hot Pepper
Speaking of the Bobcats, it is widely believed that the team got their name because of original owner Bob Johnson wanting to name the team after himself. So, while we're talking about the owner's patting themselves on the back, why not make a mascot in honor of "The Hot Tepper." You could even put it in a crown and call it "King Pepper." From there, you get all sorts of puns about the team being "too hot to handle" and "totally fire?" Not buying it? Okay, admittedly, this is probably the worst idea on the list. Perhaps this is where Charlotte FC mascot talk jumps the shark. But the idea of a food-based mascot did inspire one final option I would like for you to consider…
A Crowned Pig
I am of the opinion that whatever Charlotte FC's mascot ends up being, it needs to wear a crown to fit the team's identity, which got me wondering if you could possibly put a real crown on a real animal. Then I thought about what real animal is best associated with Charlotte. I think the pig is the answer here. Both North and South Carolina are famous for their barbecue, yet pigs are not a very prominent mascot on teams in any of those two states. Many sports teams use actual animals for their mascot, such as Uga and Bevo in college football and in international football, such as Hennes at FC Koln. As far as I can tell, no MLS team has a live mascot yet, so why not be the first. Let's get a big pig, give it a lovely crown and have it chilling on the sideline at games. This could be a huge win. All hail the King Hog.