What’s in a name
JORDAN HASLBECK, SPORTS COLUMNIST
The University of North Dakota finally has a new mascot and nickname: the Fighting Hawks.
The university went without a mascot for the past three years, after the NCAA decided that their former nickname, the Fighting Sioux, was “hostile and abusive.” The selection process for the new name has already cost the school more than $200,000.
With this in mind, I want to take the opportunity to talk about offensive team mascots.
I believe the Washington Redskins need no introduction when it comes to this topic. “Redskin” is a racist term, and the team’s logo is offensive to many indigenous people. It’s only a matter of time before the name is changed — but I said that a few years ago, and yet here we still are.
But what will happen after the Redskins’ name and logo is changed? There are plenty of other professional teams with similarly offensive names.
Recently, a proposed logo for the Chicago Blackhawks made its way around the Internet. The current logo has been around in some form for 90 years, but the modified logo takes a literal interpretation of the team name. Instead of an indigenous person’s head, it’s a black hawk’s head.
While the logo has gained a lot of attention, does it really counter the offensiveness of the ‘Hawks nickname? The name would remain unchanged, and it still references a group of people. Does changing the logo really change that?
I don’t think it does.
What about the Kansas City Chiefs? The Florida State Seminoles? The Atlanta Braves? The Chattanooga Mocs? The Cleveland Indians? The Edmonton Eskimos?
What about the Boston Celtics? Their name refers to Irish people, and their mascot is a leprechaun. And if you think Irish people haven’t been discriminated against in their history, just watch an old Tom and Jerry cartoon and look for the signs that say, “Help wanted! No Irish need apply.”
Does my beer league hockey team the Chiefs — a reference to the movie “Slap Shot” — have an offensive name? If so, does that make movies like “Slap Shot” and “Major League” offensive because they feature teams with now-unacceptable names?
I ask these questions because I’m genuinely curious.
I completely understand why the name “Redskins” is offensive, and it clearly does need to change.
Maybe all those teams should just change their names to something more neutral and less controversial, like the Jets or the Dolphins. But we know that isn’t happening any time soon.
Jordan Haslbeck is a reporter for Bison Sports
and a mediocre beer-league hockey defenseman.
He co-hosts Not Even the Press Box, a weekly radio show
about the Winnipeg Jets at radio. rrc.ca.