The NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks announced they will keep their team nickname despite calls to change it because critics charge it reinforces Native American stereotypes.
The Hawks, as they are known locally, were an original NHL franchise and were named by the first owner, Frederic McLaughlin, after the famous “Blackhawk” regiment of World War I, in which he was a commander. Native American chieftain of the Sauk nation, Black Hawk, played a prominent role in the early history of Illinois so McLaughlin adopted the Indian head as the team’s insignia.
In recent decades, the Hawks have treated the image of Blackhawk and of Native Americans with great honor and reverence. They frequently honor Native American veterans in their pregame ceremonies and have an extensive outreach program to several tribes in the Midwest. In short, they have done all they can to avoid any stereotyping of Native Americans.
A fat lot of good that has done them. The calls for a name change became so hysterical, that the team felt it necessary to issue a statement.
‘‘The Chicago Blackhawks name and logo symbolizes an important and historic person, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation, whose leadership and life has inspired generations of Native Americans, veterans and the public,’’ the Hawks’ statement said.
‘‘We celebrate Black Hawk’s legacy by offering ongoing reverent examples of Native American culture, traditions and contributions, providing a platform for genuine dialogue with local and national Native American groups. As the team’s popularity grew over the past decade, so did that platform and our work with these important organizations.
‘‘We recognize there is a fine line between respect and disrespect, and we commend other teams for their willingness to engage in that conversation.
There’s a difference between the proud, noble visage of Black Hawk on the Hawk’s sweater and the Indian logo of the MLB’s Cleveland Indians which, at one time, depicted a rather drunk Chief Wahoo. As it is, the Indians abandoned the goofy grinning Chief in 2018.
But that’s not good enough for the mob that is agitating for the canceling of the generic “Indian” team name. Apparently, using the term “Indian” is like calling a black person a “Negro.”
The Cleveland ownership has the name change under “thorough review,” meaning a name change is a foregone conclusion.
“We are committed to making a positive impact in our community and embrace our responsibility to advance social justice and equality,” the team said in a statement that came hours after the NFL’s Washington Redskins announced a similar move. “Our organization fully recognizes our team name is among the most visible ways in which we connect with the community.”
So it’s the responsibility of a professional baseball team to “advance social justice and equality”? Forgive me, but I always believed the ownership and the team were responsible for winning ballgames and championships. My bad.
Nothing has been decided, but the Indians’ decision to at least discuss the possibility of a name change is new. There will certainly be backlash from some Cleveland fans, but the team is sensitive to the importance of doing the right thing in these changing times.
“We have had ongoing discussions organizationally on these issues,” the Indians said. “The recent social unrest in our community and our country has only underscored the need for us to keep improving as an organization on issues of social justice. With that in mind, we are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.
The ownership is far more frightened of what the mob can do than what fans might do. The name “Indians” is not long for this world.
Perhaps we should start naming teams by numbers. The “Chicago Number 66s” or the “Cleveland Number 27s.” Not very catchy but at least no one will complain that it’s racist.