In case you don’t know, I love sports.
I’ve been a “jock” since I was given my first baseball glove at the age of six.
Baseball, football, hockey, wrestling, gymnastics and martial arts – you name it I’ve played it. I also enjoy watching it and following “my teams”.
For the record, my teams are; The Boston Red Sox, The Boston Celtics, The Boston Bruins and The Oakland Raiders (gotcha!).
I also like The Florida Gators.
But this article isn’t really about sports, per se.
I’m writing this because, in all honesty, I’m not sure how I feel about a semi-related issue.
Let me ask you a question;
Would you support a team called The San Antonio Spics?
How about the Baltimore Blackies or the Detroit Honkies?
Maybe the New Jersey Jews or the Washington Wops?
I think it’s a fair assumption to say that most rational people would find these mascot names offensive, or, at the very least, stupid.
However, there are several team mascots using various terms for Native Americans and very few people seem to mind.
The list is far too long to print here but just skimming the surface you have;
The Washington Redskins
The Atlanta Braves
The Cleveland Indians
The Chicago Blackhawks
The Golden State Warriors
The Kansas City Chiefs
And that’s just professional teams, there are a slew of minor league, college and high school teams with names like; The Redmen, The Squaws, The Fighting Sioux…you get the picture.
Do you know that of all the professional, semi-professional and school mascots – Native Americans are the only people to have teams named for them.
I suppose you could ask; “What about the Boston Celtics, The Oakland Raiders, The Dallas Cowboys, The Pittsburgh Pirates or the New York Giants?”
Not quite the same…those names don’t use the likeness of a specific race of people.
As I said, I’m not sure where I stand on this issue.
As you know, I detest political correctness…yet, on the other hand, even the slightest hint of racism infuriates me.
So when it comes to this particular argument I have to ask myself this question;
Is the debate over using Native Americans as mascots for sports teams nothing more than another reason for the political correctness Nazis to get their dander up – or is it a legitimate case of the public being desensitized to blatant and overt racism?
Like most good debates, it’s easy to see both sides.
On one side there are those who say the Native Americans have been mistreated since the day the first Europeans hit the beaches and this is a continuation of that mentality.
The opposing position insists that any thoughts of racism or disrespect are nothing more than the impotent outrage of politically correct cry-babies.
As a sports fan I must admit, I never saw the names as anything other than, well…names. I mean, the PETA people haven’t complained about the Florida Marlins, the Detroit Tigers or the Chicago Bears. I haven’t heard any objections from the religious community about the New Orleans Saints, San Diego Padres or the Providence College Friars and nobody, that I know of, gives a hoot about New York Jets, the Orlando Magic or the Georgetown Hoyas (to be honest, I’m not sure what a Hoya is).
Then I try to be fair and I think about how I would feel if I were a Native American. I don’t think I would like it if my ancestors were depicted as blood-thirsty killers with a love of war. I certainly wouldn’t like it if opposing teams burned images of my ancestors in effigy.
I didn’t know this until recently, but until 1978 it was illegal for Native Americans to practice their religion. Native people could be, and often were, imprisoned for using feathers, drums and certain items of clothing in religious ceremonies. Ironically, these very practices were being mocked at football games every weekend. That doesn’t seem right, especially in a country founded on religious freedom.
Harmless images or distasteful stereotypes?
I honestly don’t know.
I do know that each side has a valid argument and deserves to taken seriously. I also know that there is no simple solution to the matter which means that it will most likely never be resolved to the satisfaction of all involved.
I would like to know what you think…