|Dr. Hartnell's Nutty the A.D.D. Squirrel||
When "honoring" doesn't cut it...
In the age of political correctness, many images and words have been removed from the popular nomenclature.
Debates continue over which items are offensive, which tiptoe on the border, and which are "acceptable". One such argument concerns the use of Native Americans (a.k.a. "Indians") as team names and mascots throughout the landscape of amateur, collegiate, and professional sports.
What's in a Name?
Despite immense diversity in the size, geographic location, history, and educational specialties of the various colleges in America, most share one strikingly common feature: Eight of the 10 most common nicknames for college sports teams are beasts of prey.
In order of popularity, the Top 10 college nicknames are:
College teams named after Indians are actually underrepresented in the list. Excluded from the overall count of "Warriors" (because it could also refer to Greco-Roman Warriors) and "Indians" are all the American college teams named for individual Tribal groups, including Apaches, Aztecs, Chippewas, Fightin' Sioux, Pequots, Seminoles, and Fightin' Illini.
In addition, numerous college teams sport nicknames of generic Indian themes, among them the Chiefs, Chieftains, Braves, Redskins, Redmen, Blackhawks, Tomahawks, and Savages. If all the college teams with nicknames associated with American Indians were combined, their number would exceed that of its nearest rival by a considerable margin.
Honor vs. Racism
Why are so many college sports teams named after Indians? When challenged by critics that such names are racist and offensive, a common response is that the names were intended to honor American Indians. Supporters of Chief Illiniwek, mascot of the University of Illinois' Fightin' Illini, are quick to raise this flag of "honor" in defense of their moniker. (Ironically, the 5 Illini Tribes were expelled from the geographical terrain that now encompasses the state of Illinois...) When Indians insist that "honor" is in the eye of the beholder, and that such nicknames are insulting, supporters retreat behind the nebulous camouflage of "tradition".
Still, professional sport team names like the Washington Redskins and the Chicago Blackhawks (to say nothing of Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland Indians' logo, and the "tomahawk chop" of Atlanta Braves' fans) have been branded as "harmful stereotypes" and "racist images" that "provide an underpinning for discrimination against American Indian people".
The option... throw out the mascot and usher in a new, more "P.C." one. Such was the case when Miami of Ohio was forced to change their team name from the "Redskins" to the "Redhawks". But, is Chief Wahoo as racist of an icon as the Boston Celtics' potbellied Irishman, the San Diego Padres' roly-poly, bat-swinging monk, Notre Dame's Fightin' Irish, or Michigan State's roid-rage Spartan?
Chief Wahoo Gets a Makeover
To drive home his point that the use of Indians as mascots is offensive, Oscar Arredondo, an Aztec Native American, drew other cultures and religions in the same fashion as Cleveland's Chief Wahoo. What do you think? Does he make his point?
The Leprechaun Gets a Makeover
In a similar fashion as the Chief Wahoo makeover, so, too, have other artists re-imagined Notre Dame's Leprechaun in other ethnic varities.
The Fighting Whites
The Fighting Whites (also called Fightin' Whites, Fighting Whities, or Fightin' Whities) were an intramural basketball team that formed at the University of Northern Colorado in 2002. The team attracted a storm of national attention because of its satirical protest about stereotypes of Native Americans being used as sports mascots. The team, which included players of Native American, white, and Latino ancestry, adopted the name "Fighting Whites", with two logos. One was designed to mock like the racist logo of a local Colorado high school (the Eaton High School Fighting Reds) by using a redneck farmer instead. The other was of a stereotypical "white man" in a suit and styled after advertising art of the 1950s.
The plan to insult whites in the same way the minority students were meant to perceive Native Americans being insulted backfired on the group when the team's popularity skyrocketed. In response to customer demand, the team eventually began selling shirts under both names. The team sold enough shirts that they were eventually able to endow a sizeable scholarship fund for Native American students at Northern Colorado. In 2003, the team donated $100,000 to the University of Northern Colorado's UNC Foundation, which included $79,000 designated for the "Fightin' Whites Minority Scholarship"
The Cleveland Spiders' baseball team would never
have changed its named to "Indians" in 1915 if "Indians" were an insult.
According to team legend, the name alludes to Louis Sockalexis, a Penobscot
Indian who played with the Tribe in 1897-1899. Of course, media guides today debate all of this. Whatever the origin of their current name, they are still tough to watch.
Amateur, collegiate, and professional sports are littered with Native American mascots and logos. Take a look at what some of our nation's "finer" sports programs are proudly putting on display...
There are 9 teams in the 4 major American sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB)
whose nickname does NOT end in the letter "S". Can you name them?
Hint: Every team in the NFL ends in "S", so just drop that league and move on...
Miami Heat (NBA)
OK City Thunder (NBA)
Orlando Magic (NBA)
Utah Jazz (NBA)
Boston Red Sox (MLB)
Chicago White Sox (MLB)
Colorado Avalanche (NHL)
Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL)
Minnesota Wild (NHL)
NO TEAMS (NFL)