Voodoo or Voodon’t?

The New Orleans Voodoo makes sense as a possible rebrand . . . so much so that Hornets ownership has inquired about purchasing the brand from the AFL team that owns it.

Before he actually owned the team, causing David Stern some degree of consternation, Tom Benson did what some New Orleans Hornets fans have been perpetually clamoring for: he declared that the New Orleans Hornets will be rebranded.

This general issue has been discussed at length, but the quick summary is:

Some feel the ties to Charlotte indicated a reluctance to embrace New Orleans, leading to relocation fears and more

Some feel the team can only succeed in New Orleans when it has a locally relevant brand

Some feel the team has too many ties to too many ignominious events to ever really be embraced or be a fitting representation of the city, fans, players, and eventual championship

Other concerns are much less thoughtful, such as not liking various insect puns or the incorrect belief that hornets do not exist in the region.

Recently, Jake Madison reported that Spirit and Angels were names under consideration by the new ownership.

Now, there is another: New Orleans Voodoo.

Our information states that Hornets ownership has inquired about the purchasing this brand from the AFL team that owns it, but the offer to purchase was declined. This has happened at least once, but it may have gone through a couple of negotiation cycles.

Despite the stalled purchase, circumstances can change, and so can offers. This issue is not in a nailed-shut coffin yet.

Let’s walk through the history of this brand, the pros, the cons, and other factors, then revisit this topic.


The New Orleans Voodoo was the name for Tom Benson’s team in the former Arena Football League. It’s a brand he created, and the team had it’s inaugural season in 2004, playing in the New Orleans Arena. The team was enormously popular both before and after Katrina, despite being disbanded for a time due to the storm and having most of it’s players dispersed to the Kansas City Brigade expansion team and around the AFL.

The team was among the most popular in the NFL despite making the playoffs only once, and that in their first season, winning their division. They drew large crowds, and were instantly candidates for hosting Arena Bowls, so much so that the AFL considered breaking a contract with Las Vegas to host one and move it to New Orleans. This was not done, but New Orleans hosted back-to-back Arena Bowls in the last two years of the former AFL.

The AFL collapsed shortly after Benson folded the team in 2008, but the Voodoo were reincarnated in 2010 when the Shreveport-Bossier City Battle Wings relocated to New Orleans, donning the Voodoo brand: name, colors, mascots (Bones and Mojo), logo, Voodoo Dolls, The Graveyard, and more. The Voodoo have completed their second season in the new AFL, an outgrowth of the former AF2, the AFL’s minor league of sorts that was run on a completely different business model and with independent finances. The team’s president and owner is Dan Newman, who held that position in the Battle Wings era since 2003. Mr. Newman is a north Louisiana native and a former sports journalist.

Pros for Hornets Buying the Voodoo Brand

The Hornets would be purchasing known commodity that is popular, local, and effective.

Alternatives, such as Angels or Spirit, all entails greater degrees of risk, as the public may not embrace the brands, such as with the Wizards, who some believe are considering rebranding again, possibly to the Monuments. Thus, the purchase mitigates some of the risk associated with the rebrand while addressing the `locality’ concerns.

Purchasing the brand allows more time to spend deploying the brand and running the business. Developing a brand takes resources away from the rest of the business, could end up with a large price tag, could end up being rushed, etc., and leaving the deployment has to fit into a smaller timeframe.

Cons for Hornets Buying the Voodoo Brand

The Voodoo is associated with a failed league, then a lower tier team.

There is also potential for some marketplace confusion, as there Voodoo football merchandise is already in the area (like in my closet).

Pros for the Voodoo Selling the Voodoo Brand

Money. Plain and simple. This team ,while having much larger attendance compared to that in Shreveport, and the expenses of the current AFL are not that large, is playing in a more expensive venue where they are not the primary tenant and city with higher costs for their downtown offices (Poydras, right across from the Dome). This league has undergone several seismic changes and a tense labor battle. I don’t know for sure, but the opportunity to cash in for Newman can’t be too large, except for this unique opportunity that is time-limited.

Also, by stripping the name, they can come up with their own identity. While the Voodoo brand is fantastic, the current AFL product is not. They are a spunky league, but they set an expectation with the brand that the product does not live up to expectations . . . “it’s not like it was,” and that is true. I know, I’m a season ticket holder, and was under all Voodoo eras.

A new name could reset expectations and have people accept them for what they are and appreciate their efforts as they grow.

Being a rebrand anyway, Newman likely has no emotional attachement to the name, such as Shinn had to the Hornets. As he purchased the Battle Wings from a prior owner, he would be able to further stamp the team he’s owned for ten years with his character.

Cons for the Voodoo Selling the Voodoo Brand

They lose a great brand. Plain and simple.

They will also have to take some time to come up with a brand if they don’t use the Battle Wings again, which I consider unlikely.

What’s Going On?

So all the above is playing, presumably, into the ongoing, perhaps silent, negotiations.

Voodoo attendance is down from 8,153 average to about 6,000 (season is not over, and they may make the playoffs) in just last year. This was enough for the team to relocate upper bowl patron (such as myself) to the lower bowl, a process that is continuing for next season.

This attendance drop is larger than the drop from 8,241 average attendance to approximately 7,700 this season, and will persists it seems. For reference, the Voodoo average attendance in the old AFL were 15,143 (2004), 15,338 (2005), 16, 645 (2007), and 14,321 (2008), where they ranked high in average attendance, and leading the league in some cases. Now, they are well-below average, and the drop in attendance could very well be partially attributable to the problem of expectations discussed above. Nevertheless, this is still double the attendance the team enjoyed while in Shreveport.

In a sense, the Hornets and Voodoo have opposite problems that could be solved in the same maneuver: move the Voodoo brand to the NBA team.

Looking Forward

The Hornets rebrand will likely not occur this offseason due to NBA rules and logistical challenges. The Oklahoma City rebrand took place in this short a time, with some prior preparation likely, but it was incomplete at the season’s start. For instance, they were without a mascot until February of their first season in the Sooner State.

More likely is a partial relief of the approximately two year waiting period for rebrands to allow it to take place in the summer of 2013, allowing the newly branded team to host the 2014 All-Star Game. This exposure for the brand is worth more to the NBA than having a funeral for the Hornets brand on worldwide television. This fact, more than any other, and there are many others, leads me to think the rebrand for next offseason is the most likely.

This sets up the time for the sale of the brand. The AFL Voodoo could play next season as the Voodoo, but it’s likely better for them to play under whichever other available brand they would like to. With the team likely to rebrand in the offseason, as the Bullet-Wizards announcement was in May 1997, it would be nearly impossible for the NBA to commit to a rebrand when the brand was not in their control exclusively.

This shortens the time to have a new brand in place to Spring 2013, with Winter being better, making movement on that front an early indicator of this one rebrand: If the AFL team rebrands before the season, it is a piece of evidence that the Hornets will become the Voodoo; if not, it is a piece of evidence that the Hornets will become something other than the Voodoo.

The Voodoo are steadfastly lauding their fantastic brand to anyone who will listen, but this could very well just be an attempt to drive the price up. Benson may very well have fallen silent and be holding firm in his offering price, but this could very well just be an attempt to drive the price down.

It’s a game of chicken to some extent, but really it’s just Benson’s decision. He can buy the brand since he could just buy the team. It’s matter of him being willing to get it for the price he’s willing to pay at the time.

Like so much in sports, it depends on the decisions or whims of billionaires.

Also, criticism has been raised about the Voodoo being the image that a Catholic family honored by the Pope would want put forth. This would be further compounded by his wife Gayle’s comments about Spirit and Cardinals being names she would like, both religious names tied to Catholicism: the former being part of the Trinity, the latter being a senior figure in the ecclesiastical hierarchy.

An immediate response is that two people on the planet actively named their professional sports franchises (of this scale) “Voodoo.” Tom Benson is one of them, and he created it. Then he kept the name the same after the team did not play due to Katrina, a fine time to change the name and break with the past. Some will say Gayle would have an influence in this, but they were married in the the Fall of 2004, following the Voodoo’s first season, and have been ever since. Again, there was ample time for the influence to take hold and force a rebrand. Things can change, but the data supports a willingness to name a team “Vooodoo.”

Ready, willing, and able.

Check, check, check . . . then THE check.

Side Note

This Voodoo ownership shows that Tom Benson and his group are more than capable of running two sports franchises simultaneously. The NBA is a higher level league than the former AFL, but the capacity has been demonstrated. Good to know for those that find the above new.


It’s been brought to my attention that Dan Newman may not in fact own the brand, but that the new AFL does. I think this distinction is minor in that who decides what to do changes, but the overall factors are the same: The AFL will cash in should it sell, therefore all owners some instead of just one to a high degree. In fact, if the brand isn’t making a big difference in revenue, other owners may be even more eager to make such a change then Newman would if it was primarily his decision.

Also, it could be that buying the Voodoo increases the likelihood of a rebrand happening early, whether it be next offseason or this one. The negatives to rebranding early would be mitigated as effectively as possible since the mascots, etc. are all extant. Discussions with those familiar with the Thunder indicated that the reports of the unavailability of Thunder merchandise was overblown, which would be a major concern not addressed by purchase of the brand.

Ergo, the sooner the rebrand happens, the more likely that the rebrand is to Voodoo.

The AFL season is ongoing. The Voodoo play their last regular season game on July 21, 2012, and the Arena Bowl is in New Orleans on August 10, 2012. No announcement along these lines will happen while the Voodoo are active, but the above sets up the early end of the timeframe. The latest possible date to announce a rebrand would be October 1, 2012, and this is likely too late. This is somewhat arbitrary, but preseason starts just after that date typically. This is nevertheless a window of time to pay attention to for a near-term rebrand. I would assume a declining probability distribution; in other words, the longer it goes, the less likely it is to happen.

It’ll be a tight fit for this offseason. Keep an eye on the Voodoo, regardless. They’re a New Orleans team, fun to watch, and have a shot at the title at this point.

I’d like to thank readers here and at hornetsreport for discussions that fed into this update.

97 responses to “Voodoo or Voodon’t?”

  1. The Voodoo is 100 times better than the Angels or the Spirit. I don’t know if it’s the best option, but if that’s the only alternative to the other two names, then my answer is a resounding yes

  2. I still think Brass or Pelicans is the best name. I don’t like Angels, Spirit, or Voodoo as team names.

  3. I think if Benson could get the VooDoo naming rights that would be a real coup for him and for the success of the franchise in the region. Depending on how the team decided to design the jerseys this could also bring a real boost to sales nation-wide, much more so than either the Hornets, Angels or Spirit. My order of preference would be the VooDoo and then keeping the Hornets. As far as Angels or Spirit is concerned I really, really don’t like either …. on the other hand, Benson saved the franchise for us so at some level he could call his team the New Orleans Dingleberries and I’d be hip to it.

  4. Wait, Benson wants to buy the Voodoo? He disbanded the former AFL team in 2008/2009. And when the new team changed their name to the VooDoo, he didn’t cooperate with them when it comes to former season ticket holders.

  5. Um, can we just keep the hornets the hornets?? That would be my very strong preference. Been a HUGE fan of the hornets long before they moved to new orleans and it was hard enough moving cities without changing the franchise name.

    Besides, the name Voodoo is lame in my opinion. Its not an object or character or person or animal… Its a religion or religious practice. And a funky twisted religion at that. Might as well be the Cannibals. Should we rename them the Mass? Or the Communion? Doesnt seem right to me.

    If the name is changed, their will be some great history that will be lost with the name. I hope we dont loss the memories of Muggsy Bogues, Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Vlade Divac, Glenn Rice, Kendell Gill, Dell Curry, and Anthony Mason. Many of these guys I still have jerseys of and are considered icons from my childhood. A little bit of them dies with the hornets name. PLEASE DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN!!

  6. I agree, stick with the hornets. There are a lot of hornet fans that will be disenfranchised with a rebrand, these are the fans that have been around since the beginning and have stuck with the team through the highs & lows. Changing the brand & therefore guernseys will remove the last connection that these fans have with that history. It’ll essentially be a completely different team, I feel. I think the hornets is a great brand and shouldn’t be replaced. Besides the suggestions so far have been terrible.

    • Exactly. I’ve been a fan since the Muggsy days and if the one thing remaining that’s tying me to this franchise changes I can’t see myself being a fan. New Orleans will have the smallest fanbase in the whole league.

      • Voodoo reminds me of the WNBA also….or some other bush league minor league type name, like an Arena league name…SmH that’s a great gimmick name for the AFL, awful for an NBA franchise.

      • I suppose names like Lakers, Knicks, Nets, Magic, Nuggets and the such are so much more professional ::) Get real. There are many NBA names that are way lamer than a name like Vodoo.

  7. I’m ok with Voodoo if that’s what we get not my first choice. I want something original not just rehashed team names.

    The only name that fits all my criterias is “Sinners” oldly enough. Original, says Nola, good fit with the Saints. Who dat say they gone beat them Sins.

    No chance though I know. 🙁

  8. Voodon’t!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not everyone in the NOLA area is proud of ties with Voodoo and what it represents.

    • If Jesus really existed he’d probably have a better sense of humor about “Voodoo” than you do.

      • He does exist Bonaparte. You shouldn’t bring that up in this discussion. Keep your idiotic views to yourself.

      • Actually, it is merely your opinion that Jesus is real. Any evidence you could possibly offer to the contrary is purely made up. However, we respect your right to choose to believe he is real [Joe’s edit– not name calling, but pretty close]. This is simply not the forum for this type of discussion or name calling

        That said, I think Voodoo is an all right name. It does strike me as a little “bush league” as someone mentioned above, but I think this is largely due to the association with Arena Football. I think in the hands of a talented marketing team (which Benson and the Hornets have) the negative connotations associated with the failed AFL could be erased over time. Assessing the name alone without seeing the associated marketing material is like judging a song by just its lyric.

      • I appreciate the job that the mods do here and I am sure it is no easy task, but I am wondering why my post was edited. Was it misread? It contained nothing offensive. I said (paraphrasing), “we WILL NOT resort to calling people idiots in this forum.” In the above post, Dustin refers to another poster’s views as “idiotic.” I think it was pretty clear that I was referencing this and stating my distaste for that type of abusive comment. How is this unacceptable?

      • I didn’t edit it. I’ll look into it. What you are saying here does not bother me.

        Will investigate.

        Ok, I see it. I’m not sure why, but it was Joe’s call to make, just as it’s my call when I do it.

        Don’t take it personally, and I don’t think your restatement will be edited.

        Thanks for engaging in the original discussion and this one. Glad you chose to talk rather than walk when it happened.

      • Punctuation would help this if it was the kind of thing you should be posting on a basketball board, which is isn’t.


    • I hate to tell you but the Hornets name is as good as gone for the city of New Orleans and all it’s Louisiana fans. The name belongs in Charlotte where it started and where it has a much longer history and connection to the people of North Carolina.

      Stop being a fair weather fan and support your team no matter what they are called. As of now I am a Charlotte Bobcats fan and will be a fan of the team should they stay the Bobcats. Still just as the city of Seattle deserves to have their NBA team called the Super Sonics should the NBA return there, the city of Charlotte deserves to have their Hornets back. If you want to support the name Hornets than do so with the team currently in Charlotte once they get the name Hornets back. If not than support the team you now have in New Orleans no matter what name they go by.

  9. 1. Voodoo
    2. Breakers
    3. Brass
    4. Pelicans
    5. Hornets
    6. Bounce

    27. Krewe

    45. Soul

    145. Angels

  10. new orleans Chiefs
    (mardi gras indian chiefs that is)
    think how great the cheerleaders will look in feathers.

    but i can live with brass. (colors green and gold)

  11. So, IF we have to rebrand, Voodoo is definitely the best option. However…

    I love the Hornets! And think we should remain the Hornets. A few reasons…

    1) As stated, contrary to popular belief, we do have Hornets here. So, this argument is moot.
    2) (And sorry old-school die-hards) But the Jazz are now tainted. The team has historically played boringly, as is the name. Let the Mormon’s keep it…we don’t want it anymore.
    3) Hugo is boss!! He’s arguably the best mascot in all of the NBA, if not all of sports…period.
    4) We still like the Hornets, have their memorabilia, and have been on this journey with them since they came to NOLA. KEEP IT!

    If we must rebrand, the Voodoo is best by far. Angels? Weak, and very “gentle”. No. Spirit? No. Bounce? Hells no! Sorry. If this is seriously a consideration then let’s throw “Krunk” into the mix. Gimme a break. I like Slimms call of the Chiefs, although doubt it’s even being tossed around.

    In summary…

    New Orleans Hornets and the Honeybees, and Hugo!!

    • Sorry pal, but the Hornets name belongs to and need to go back to Charlotte. We are the ones that created the Honeybees, Hugo, The Hive, etc….Plus, we have ACTUAL historical ties to the Hornets name since Charlotte was labeled a Hornets Nest during the Revolutionary War. Get your own damn name and give us ours back.

  12. Crescents? WTH? We are a shape now? Pelicans?!?! Seriously? Ooooooo…..scary!!!! I’d rather be the mother effin New Orleans Nutria!!!!

    • Tim, it is not like the NBA has a lot of great names. When it comes to basketball names all bets are off. Lakers, Knicks, Nets, Heat, Suns etc..etc..

      It is not like those are scary names. In the NBA it is not usually about scary or intimidating. Some of the most mundane names such as Lakers and Knicks are iconic names. I realize that Charlotte is not a major market but the state bird is the Pelican and the name would fit. Based on other team names like those I mentioned which are universally accepted and when attached to a winner respected, I can not see how the names you hate so much would be bad choices. In the end a seemingly lame name would be quite popular with everyone if the name is synonymous with winning. Names mean squat when winning happens.

  13. The AFL owns the rights to the name not Dan Newman. Don’t know if the league will let it go.

    • Source? I’ll be happy to edit the piece with more knowledge, but I have to confirm it.

      Still, the overall point remains the same, it’s just a cash-strapped league instead of a cash-strapped team, and you can bet Newman will have a say in the branding that has to do with his team.

      Also, go Lions!

      • I am not calling you a liar or anything and you are correct the same point is at hand. There is no source needed its just the way the league operates it owns all the logos and names.

      • I need a source. “It is” may be true, but I need a source that isn’t an anonymous person on the internet. I want to have the complete story and the best facts.

        I didn’t think you are calling me a liar, just ignorant of the way the team worked.

  14. For the record, I’m perfectly fine with it staying Hornets.

    I’m reporting the story, giving some facts, making a case that this is a good move given the net of the pros, cons, etc. Someone else may see it otherwise, but that’s all I’m doing here. Data and analysis.

      • That’s a source for you, not for me.

        If I doubted you, I wouldn’t be responding, so understand that I’m not doubting you.

        Tell you what, get your friend to post here, I’ll snag his email address, and get in touch. If not, I’ll contact the team Monday. I called today, but the communications guy is on the road with the team.

      • No problem I will see if I can get a hold of him. By the way thought it was a good article.

      • I appreciate it. Also, I can just email you if that’s easier. Just tell me so.

        I also appreciate you telling me how to make it better in a cool way. It’s the readers that keep us going and keep us improving.

  15. If they rebrand to the name voodoo, I will stop being a fan and will not attend any more games. The name voodoo should not even be mentioned as a name possibility. Personally, I like the Brass or Soul.

    • I like Privateers. a lot. I’m leaning towards Pelicans and Crescents right now. My favorite ones are not going to happen for whatever reason.

      New Orleans Royals – apparently Sacremento owns the name “Royals” from when they were in Omaha.

      New Orleans Buccaneers – Obvious reasons, w/ the Saints involved.

      I don’t like Bounce, Krewe, Rhythm, Voodoo, Brass, etc. That’s all bush league, WNBA, minor league sounding names.

    • It would be easier to give the team the name Corsairs which has a French connection and fits with the French heritage and history for much of Louisiana.

  16. I like the Krewe of New Orleans! Something unique because it is different than every other team with the city name then the name. The Krewe making moves to be a team to be reckoned with! I like it the most. Mardi Gras Krewe

    • this is my favorite too. it makes all the fans feel like a mardi gras krewe and every game feels like fat tuesday (at least for tourists and folks from the north shore)

  17. why not the JESTERS???? … its a perfect name for the team and the city and no one really cares about the jesters soccer team.

  18. I know it’s not my team or my call, but I hope they stay the Hornets. I understand the people of New Orleans wanting a name that reflects more local culture and all that, but I’ve been a Hornets fan for years, and when I say that, I’m talking back in the days of Muggsy Bogues, LJ, Kendall Gill, and Alonzo. There are lots of fans of the team outside of New Orleans that love the Hornets brand, and I for one wish they stay the Hornets.

    • You can continue to love the Hornets brand…when it resurfaces in Charlotte after NOLA decides on what to name their team.

  19. New Orleans Grand Marshalls (we would always be better than the kings).
    And I like Krewe of New Orleans better than New Orleans Krewe.

  20. I chose to like this team as the Hornets back in Charlotte. I don’t want to root for another team.

    • You won’t. As soon as the Hornets name is released, Jordan is going to bring the name back to Charlotte….WHERE IT BELONGS. The Hive, Honeybees, Hugo, the original Hornet Logo (not the god forsaken morphing of a Hornet it now is) all originated and need to go back to Charlotte. Name the team something with real ties to your city. We have historical connections and meaning with the Hornets name since we were dubbed a Hornets Nest during the Revolutionary War. Get your own name and history.

  21. At first, I was excited about a rebrand, then after hearing all the ridiculously corny names that were proposed, I am for remaining the “New Orleans Hornets.”

  22. Please Voodon’t. I think that people would view New Orleans the wrong way. I don’t like it religiously, either.

  23. I agree with my previous cohorts about leaving the name as it is due to the fact that I also have been rooting for this team since their Charlotte days.

  24. It should be New Orleans Buccaneers. Like the Spurs, Knicks, Pacers, and a few other teams, they were a charter member of the ABA. Hubbie and Larry Brown both played here the first year in the old Loyala Field House. We could hang their jerseys in the arena. This would take us back to our pro basketball root. This is perfect for a city and region the celebrates it’s history. It would also give the national media something positive to say about our true basketball heritage. Just think of all the stories that Hubbie could tell during national broadcasts about his days playing in New Orleans with Larry Brown. Remember people, before the Hornetarcane here, it was the Jazz. The Jazz followed the Buccaneers. I think that in this case the. Best way to move forward is to go back to our basketball roots!

    • great idea, but one problem.

      the MiL Bucks.

      THe NO Bucs will not be favored by stern and nba. believe it or not it will confuse folks.

  25. Just checked, it was the Spurs, Nets, Nuggets, Buccaneers, and Pacers that were among the 11 charter members of the old ABA

  26. I would prefer to keep the Hornets. I think the history should be preserved and plus the name is cool along with the logo. However, if you HAD to change the name, I’d prefer something like New Orleans Storm. I know it was the name of a New Orleans Soccer team, but they’re the Jesters now so I guess you could change. Plus, it goes with the Hurricane theme that’s plaqued New Orleans for many years now. I’d like to keep the name the Hornets, though. Mugsy, Larry Johnson, Divac, Mason, Gill…guys like this give the Hornets the name.

  27. I would prefer to keep the Hornets. I think the history should be preserved and plus the name is cool along with the logo. However, if you HAD to change the name, I’d prefer something like New Orleans Storm. I know it was the name of a New Orleans Soccer team, but they’re the Jesters now so I guess you could change. Plus, it goes with the Hurricane theme that’s plaqued New Orleans for many years now. I’d like to keep the name the Hornets, though.

  28. How about the JAZZ?

    What does Utah have to do with Jazz, nothing! Mardi Gras colored uniforms? Please! Ok we aren’t getting our name back, I do like the Fluer de Bee logo though.

  29. I love the “Hornets as my 1st choice. Hugo is really great. My 2nd choice is the”Voodoo”. Just imagine other NBA teams coming to play in the “graveyard”. Real scarey and exciting.

  30. Is the rebrand issue over completely? I was ready to buy a N.O. Voodoo shirt and I haven’t heard anything new since early July. The VooDoo would be amazing, the Krewe is o.k., what’s the news – yes, I care about the team play/player issues – but I’ve got a football season to start now. So, is Voodoo in or out or are we going to remain the bees or bugs or hornets or whatever the heck the folks in North Carolina thought was cool? Thanks for any new news.

  31. Thanks man, any guess at what if anything is in motion at this time? Do you think it’s still a real possibility that the rebrand will be Voodoo?

    • If the Voodoo name was going to be purchased, it would have been done so already. Whether it’d be announced or not, we’ll see. If it’s not announced soon, the unlikely event of them rebranding this season will be effectively rendered an impossibility. Then, we’ll be looking for some activity with the AFL team to see if they are rebranding or suspending operations as a clue to NBA action on this front if they don’t say anything themselves.

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