Public furor directed at several professional sports teams over offensive names and branding is reaching a fever pitch. Several professional sports leagues in North America include teams whose mascots, names, and logos have drawn criticism from many communities. When we consider that these logos and names are not only representative of the teams, but entire cities across North America, the concern broadens.
The NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, the MLB’s Cleveland Indians, and the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins are among the highest profile targets of public outrage. In addition to the inappropriate names, the teams logos heighten the organizations’ offense.
‘Chief Wahoo’ is the team mascot and logo for the Cleveland Indians — a cartoon depiction of an Indigenous man with red face paint. The logo has received heavy criticism and prompted petitions for it to change.
The Chicago Blackhawks are a team that have been lauded for their Stanley Cup victories and the success of their individual players, however, the team’s logo has also been a source of longtime contention. It is the face of an Indigenous man with feathers in his hair and war paint on his face. Some consider it to be one of the most offensive logos in professional sport.
Offensive logos, however, are not limited to professional sport, as controversy has sparked up around intercollegiate teams as well. The McGill Redmen have attempted to respond to the controversy over their name by devoting a portion of their website to explaining the origins of the Redmen name.
Richard Pound, former chair of the McGill Athletics Board stated, “Unless we find historical evidence which establishes that the Redmen name came from other than the colour of McGill’s uniforms, we intend to preserve the traditional name for our men’s teams.”
This argument is common throughout sports teams’ logo and name debates — franchises do not seem to want to change because to them, they represent the history of the team and the league.
Naming sports teams for symbols from Indigenous culture is disrespectful and offensive. It exploits these already marginalized communities through racist caricatures. We can only hope that in the future, sports teams realize the damage these logos cause and dismiss the idea of having Indigenous mascots, logos, and names to represent their team.