Many fans have defended the Chicago Blackhawks’ current logo, saying it is in honor of Chief Black Hawk and respectful. I would argue the franchise could show more respect by removing the logo altogether.
Major League Baseball announced Monday the Cleveland Indians will be removing Chief Wahoo from all of its uniforms starting in 2019, meaning this coming baseball season will be the last featuring the controversial logo.
This news came with a mix of uproar from fans and praise from people who found the logo offensive and racist. I’m sure this post may have a similar mix of responses.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ logo may not have been the center of attention, with the fight against Chief Wahoo and the Washington Redskins’ logo seemingly being more prominent, but that does not mean it isn’t noticed. In fact, several articles can be found online with quotes from members of the American Indian Center in Chicago and the Quebec First Nations in support of changing the logo.
Whether you agree with it or not, there is more and more talk as time goes on about the Blackhawks moving on from their current Indian Head logo. I’ll weigh in with my thoughts on the matter. But first, a little history.
History of the name and logo
When the franchise formed back in 1926, owner Frederick McLaughlin, a coffee tycoon and Harvard graduate, decided he wanted to name the team the Black Hawks. A little of the history of the name, direct from the Chicago Blackhawks’ website:
"“During World War I, McLaughlin had served as a commander in the 333rd Machine Gun Battalion of the 86th Division of the U.S. Army. Members of his division called themselves Black Hawks in honor of the Sauk Indian chief who sided with the British in the War of 1812. Surely, the Major felt, it would be a fitting name for the newest entry into the National Hockey League.”"
Right from the start in 1926-27, the Black Hawks donned a uniform with a depiction of Black Hawk, the Sauk Indian chief, on the chest of the uniform. The NHL Uniform Database is a great resource to see how that uniform has changed over the years.
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While color scheme and style have certainly changed over time, the one constant has been the franchise’s uniform always containing a depiction of Black Hawk on it. Whether the depiction was wrapped in the words “Chicago Black Hawks” or just the chief, the Indian Head logo has always been there.
Why change can be good
I know the feeling many Blackhawks fans have when talk comes up about the logo being changed. I attended the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign just two years after the Chief Illiniwek logo was removed by the university. I had been a Fighting Illini fan all of my life and was heartbroken when I found out my favorite school’s logo was changing.
So, I attended school and felt like some sort of injustice had been done to me. That somehow I had been shorted by the university for this logo being taken away. I felt my fandom to the team and the university meant this logo and the history behind it was more important than anyone saying it was offensive or racist. I, admittedly, vocally spoke out and said that it should not have been removed and that it should be brought back.
And then, I went to football, basketball and club hockey games. My freshman year, the football team went to the Rose Bowl. That same year, the club hockey team went undefeated. I stormed the court my junior year when the Illini upset No. 5 Michigan State in men’s basketball. And, it turned out, the logo these teams wore sans the Chief really didn’t matter. At the heart of it all, I only cared about it still being my team and seeing that team succeed.
At one time, I tried to talk about the Chief logo being an honorable salute to a group of people and that the respect for it meant it couldn’t be offensive. But as time went on, I realized two things.
Da Windy City
First, I can’t say that it actually isn’t offensive because I am only one person. There are billions of other people who can look at it and find it offensive. The thought of wanting to cheer on a team but finding its logo to be something hurtful is incredibly sad. The team and its fandom should be inclusive to everyone and not leave people on the outside trying to speak up on why it offends them.
Second, the logo simply did not matter nearly as much as I thought it would. At first, I thought losing the logo would be like losing the team. That playing with an Orange “I” instead of the Chief would take away from the history and tradition of my university. But records didn’t change. History of great teams or amazing plays weren’t erased. The teams continued to play and still do today (albeit pretty terribly).
That’s why the Blackhawks going away from the Indian Head is something that, in the grand scheme of things, wouldn’t have an impact on me or my fandom. I think a change should be encouraged.
Jay Zawaski tweeted earlier today with a picture of the 86th Infantry Division’s actual logo, and it was something that I thought looked great. I could easily see a hockey team using this for a logo, or even a spruced-up version of it. While some may not be in love with the idea as much as the current logo, if the team you love was wearing it, I think you would still cheer for them.
In the end, this is not me getting on a soap box and speaking of injustices that are hurting me and saying that the logo is offensive to me personally. I am simply saying that a logo that is seen as offensive in any way to a significant group of people is not worth fighting for when there are actual hurt feelings and pain on the other side of the aisle.
I know there are a large group of people who will argue against everything I am saying. They will contend the logo the Blackhawks use is not offensive — that the history behind the logo and the fact it comes from a good place of honor and respect means it shouldn’t be removed. But even if there were no ill intentions in the creation of a logo and it was meant to honor what it represents, it does not mean it can’t have a negative impact and hurt other people.
In an era when Blackhawks fandom is at an all-time high, the franchise could be even more inclusive by moving on to a logo that wouldn’t be offensive to a group of people. Many argue the current logo shows respect to Chief Black Hawk and the Sauk. I would argue you can show even more respect by not using the logo at all.
I never want to find out the team I love lost fans or turned others away from becoming fans because of a logo that offended them. This is hockey, a sport I truly love and want to see everyone I know love as well. This is the Blackhawks, the team I have cheered on through thick and thin and want everyone to love as much as me. Something as simple as a logo on a uniform isn’t worth anyone losing that love.