Friday, 28 May 2010

If It Ain't Broke...

The man to the left is sports reporter Damian Cox. Damian works for the Toronto Star as a sportswriter, and works a weekend gig on TSN on a show called The Reporters. There's no denying that Damian Cox likes to stir up some discussion, but he occasionally goes way over the edge of sanity in doing so. Heck, there was even a blog that highlighted some of his greatest misses. I have to admit that today's article, published both on the Toronto Star's website and in their print pages, goes slightly over the line in terms of sane hockey writing.

There has been a serious push in certain circles to remove the imagery and slightly offensive team names that negatively portrayed Native American peoples. I understand the reasons for this, but there seems to be some serious misguided lawsuits over the names that are being used out of respect of the indigenous peoples.

Let me be clear here: names that are offensive to any group of people should be reconsidered. It's just a bad idea as a business to offend a group of people in public. There are a number of sports teams who have already rebranded themselves in order to escape any embarrassment or prosecution from Native American peoples.

  • NCAA - St. John's Redmen changed to St. John's Red Storm.
  • NCAA - Arkansas State Indians changed to Arkansas State Red Wolves.
  • NCAA - University of Massachusetts Redmen changed to University of Massachusetts Minutemen.
  • NCAA - Stanford Indians changed to Stanford Crimson.
  • International League Baseball - Syracuse Chiefs changed to Syracuse SkyChiefs, but now use "Chiefs" with a railroad reference.
  • Midwest League - Peoria Chiefs changed their imagery from an indigenous peoples reference to a firefighting reference.
  • AHL - Springfield Indians changed to the Worcester IceCats who are now the Peoria Rivermen.
In all of those cases, except perhaps for the "Chiefs", the name chosen by the team or school was slightly offensive. "Redmen" clearly refers to the colour of the indigenous peoples' skin colour, while "Indians" is an incorrect term thanks to Christopher Columbus' miscalculations in believing he landed in India. History shows that this mistake was never corrected over hundreds of years, and the term "Indians" remained applied to Native American peoples despite not being related to India in any way, shape, or form.

There are current sports teams who still use team names that would be considered slightly to completely offensive, depending on your point of view.
  • NFL's Washington Redskins
  • MLB's Cleveland Indians
  • NFL's Kansas City Chiefs
  • MLB's Atlanta Braves
  • CFL's Edmonton Eskimos
  • WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors
  • WHL's Spokane Chiefs
  • WHL's Portland Winterhawks
There are many more teams that use indigenous peoples' imagery with names that refer to them in less than flattering light, but the point is that Damian Cox's article is completely ridiculous. If there is one team that has never attempted to portray anything but respect with their logo, it is the Chicago Blackhawks.

I don't know how Damian Cox comes up with the idea that the Blackhawks' logo is offensive, but I don't see it. Stating that the Blackhawks take to the ice "with the cultural equivalent of a cigar store Indian on their chests" is highly offensive to me, more so than the Native American logo on the chests of the Blackhawks. One is a cultural stereotype. The other is a proud logo of a proud franchise with a long history. There's a major difference between the two.

Cox makes a good point in stating,
"The connection between UND and the Blackhawks, meanwhile, is that the original Fighting Sioux logo was based on that used by Chicago’s NHL entry. So an image now banned at a major NCAA hockey school is still happily in use in the NHL."
The issue, however, is that the Sioux were forced by North Dakota's Supreme Court to change the name despite the support of one of the Sioux tribes in North Dakota for UND to continue using the logo. It's not like this fight has been on-going for decades; rather, it started with the decree by the NCAA five years ago to remove these names.

If the Fighting Sioux logo was based on the Blackhawks' logo, then how does one rationalize the Portland Winter Hawks' logo since it is a spitting image of the Blackhawks' logo? And why has no one spoken out against it?

The fact is that the Black Hawk name and logo came about thanks to some very honourable people. Cox even states that "the name came from the wish of founder Frederic McLaughlin back in 1926 to honour his battalion from World War I, which was nicknamed after Chief Black Hawk of the Saux Nation, who fought on the side of the British in the War of 1812".

So tell me again how is it offensive if the name, logo, and reasons are all honourable and respectful of men who deserve recognition?

My guess is that Cox was simply stirring the pot on a slow news day. There have been few major hockey stories to report with the break before the Stanley Cup Final, so Cox was simply stirring the pot and getting hits on the Toronto Star website. That's fine and dandy to do, I suppose, but it also seems a little petty in terms of trying to attract readers and comments.

Cox is literally trying to eliminate 84 years of history with the Native American head by making the claim that it's offensive when I've never heard anyone claim that. If you want to talk offensive, perhaps he should focus on the local team whose spelling of their team name that leaves a lot to be desired if you're an English teacher (excuse the pun).

All in all, a fanciful little article, but a serious miss from one of Toronto's sportswriters. Perhaps CoxBloc was right: Toronto is "[t]he centre of the bad sports writing universe". Proof positive, in fact.

The Chicago Blackhawks should not even entertain this idea. Keep it real, Hawks fans!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


JTH said...

So are you saying that the name "Winterhawks" is potentially offensive but "Blackhawks" isn't?

If so, how do you figure?

Teebz said...

No, not at all.

The name is not offensive, according to Cox. The logo is, and the Winter Hawks use a logo that is the closest to the Blackhawks' logo out of all of them.