I’ve always been passionate about political and sociological issues. Growing up, it got to the point where my father and I could only safely discuss sports and the weather without devolving into a heated argument.
As I’ve matured (or at least gotten older) I tend to see things more in shades of grey rather than in black and white. HOWEVER, if you want a glimpse of the younger, more doctrinaire me, start discussing the use of Native-American imagery for sports mascots.
Our local AAA baseball franchise, the Syracuse Skychiefs, recently announced that they are reverting to their Chiefs nickname. The original Chiefs nickname was coined in 1934, the standard offensive stereotypical use of Native Americans as a sports mascot in the guise of “honoring” the area’s glorious heritage.
The new nickname supposedly is about trains and our area’s glorious heritage of railroading (just like the Skychiefs were about our area’s glorious heritage of air travel.) That’s B.S.
The white, middle class fans of the team have always called the team Chiefs, that’s what this little marketing gimmick is trying to legitimize.
When the team and fans are called on this issue they immediately cry “politically correct”. (See the debate raging on columnist Sean Kirst’s weblog forum over at the Post Standard web site.) The retort is meant to short circuit all debate, since the P.C. label is the modern Scarlet Letter. All to whom it is affixed are prejudged to be intolerant, self-righteous and out of touch with “everyday” folks.
Why do sports fans need to have reprehensible caricature logos like Chief Wahoo for the Cleveland Indians? Why do fans of the University of Illinois need a Chief Illiniwek: a white frat boy dressed up in faux Indian regalia, dancing around the sidelines? Why does the Washington NFL team use a slur word as its nickname, a word so hateful that it is exactly synonymous with the “n” word for African-Americans?
This issue is especially important for Syracuse. Our town has a very nasty history of intolerant and racist behavior surrounding our professional sports franchises. Jackie Robinson also integrated AAA baseball, playing for the Montreal Royals. The racist taunting and rough treatment on the field that he received from Chiefs fans and players are documented to be amongst the worst he received. Fans of the Syracuse Nats NBA franchise were notorious for flying projectiles aimed at African-American players, deemed by most players the worst place to play in the league.
Why is the Syracuse AAA team bucking the trend toward respecting Native Americans by not trivializing their culture and disrespecting their traditions?
I love sports. Why do sports fans feel they need to demean and stereotype other people, for something so inconsequential as their favorite sports team’s nickname and logo?
I’m glad that I am not a fan of the local club–as a die hard Red Sox fan I go out to Alliance Stadium only when Pawtucket is in town. And I root, root, root AGAINST the home team. Go Pawsox, beat the Syracuse Bigots!