Blackhawks: Breaking down the team’s logo controversy
By Justin Klawans
The Chicago Blackhawks have perhaps one of the most recognizable logos in all of professional sports.
Despite this, their classic Native American head has seen renewed controversy this past year. After Danny Wirtz, the son of team owner Rocky Wirtz, was named CEO of the Blackhawks on Thursday, he was quick to address the logo issue with the media.
The emblem has had heightened scrutiny for being potentially offensive to Native Americans. After the Cleveland Indians announced that they would be dropping their team name after 2021, some began to wonder if the ‘Hawks would follow suit with their logo.
Despite this, Wirtz was quick to clear up that the Blackhawks would not be changing their logo or the team name, at least for the foreseeable future. In his statement, Wirtz noted that Chicago’s logo honored the rich history of Native American culture, and also noted that the team has started numerous outreach programs, stating:
"We continue to feel really positive about the types of work we can do, the way in which we can be better stewards of the namesake and the history…so we’re going to continue down this path and continue to hold our brand up in the highest levels of honor."
While people are often quick to categorize the Blackhawks’ logo as one of a number of racially motivated epithets in sports, both the team name and the logo were created to honor the rich heritage of Illinois, and the name wasn’t originally a reference to Native Americans at all.
The founder of the team, Frederic McLaughlin, came up with the name “Black Hawks” in reference to the army division he served with in World War I, which was nicknamed the Black Hawk Division. It was this army division that was originally named for a Native American, not the hockey team.
While the team logo is obviously based on a Native American, it is honoring the image of Chief Black Hawk, the Sauk warrior who the army division named themselves after. While other sports teams, such as the former Washington Redskins, used a name and logo that was based purely on a racist trope, the Blackhawks have tried their best to always show respect to the heritage their team came from.
This is why I agree with the team that the logo should stay the same. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, having been a ‘Hawks fan for so long, but leaving my bias out of the argument, the Blackhawks have done a lot to show their respect for the team’s heritage and to hold up the numerous Native American communities throughout Chicago.
In addition, the team has previously acknowledged that some of their old practices were in poor taste, and have taken steps to move away from these controversies. In July, the team announced that they were banning the wearing of headdresses in the United Center during games. These headdresses were widely seen as cultural appropriation, and the ‘Hawks did the right thing in banning them.
The history of the Chicago Blackhawks is one that is long and rich. While the team’s logo is still seen as inappropriate or even racist by some, the fact is that the ‘Hawks have done everything possible to work with the Native American community to honor and respect their heritage.
This is what, in my opinion, separates Chicago from so many other teams that have been mired in controversy. Hopefully, relations between the team and Native Americans will do nothing but continue to thrive.