Recent reports surfacing about a particular NFL franchise, the Washington Redskins, created a minor stir throughout the sports world, bringing the Chicago Blackhawks in the argument as well.
What unites the two teams, you might ask? It is the name, which is suggestive of a native group. Not only are the Redskins and Blackhawks involved, but another NFL franchise, the Kansas City Cheifs, and the Cleavland Indians of the MLB. Besides those four main teams, are over 150 other clubs in various sports across North America. Many activist groups for indigenous people have called out these clubs on occasion, with little success.
What would a name change have an impact on? Clubs such as the Blackhawks could stand to lose a substantial amount. Not only would they have a new name, but a new logo, mascot, and uniforms. The Chicago Blackhawks’ name has only undergone one change, back in the early 1980’s, where the space was taken out of “Black Hawks” to make it easier to say. Over 87 years of tradition would stand to be lost. Not only would the five Stanley Cup banners in the rafters of the United Center lose a little of their meaning, but the statues of Blackhawks’ greats just outside the building would also have a lost lustre. Millions and millions of dollars in memorobilia would be out-of date, and lets face it: any word behind Chicago that isn’t Bulls, Bears, or Blackhawks just doesn’t sound right.
Should we be worried? No. A famous study by Sports Illustrated back in 2002 found that “83% of American Indian respondents to a poll said that professional teams should not stop using Indian nicknames, mascots, or symbols.” Even though it is over a decade old, feelings are still largely the same, but noise is being made by people who don’t appreciate the name. Take a look around the next time you’re out in Chicago, or any city: the chances of seeing a Native American wearing a Blackhawks hat or shirt is about the same as any other culture. We as fans should be united by our favourite teams, not separated by their name.