With major league sports attempting to save a pandemic ravaged season by reducing the number of games that will be played in a bubble with no fans present, other issues are being thrown into the mix. I write of team names that are, or perhaps are not, offensive to indigenous people.
In the latest turn, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has decreed that teams with such names will be referred to only as the city and sport. For instance, the Chicago Blackhawks will be known henceforth on the CBC as the Chicago hockey team. The Atlanta Braves must be called the Atlanta baseball team when they are mentioned in a report.
These names are considered to be racist, but by whom? The Edmonton football team in the Canadain Football League (CFL) is called the Eskimos. Much has been made of this name over the past several years, with calls for the team to change the name.
Jordin Tootoo, the National Hockey League’s (NHL) first Inuk player, sees no problem with the name. He states that he refers to himself as Inuk, but that members of his father’s generation and beyond were proud to be Eskimos.
Also, what is the intention? Tootoo goes on ““Was it racially charged, or, was it because of admiration for the ability of the Eskimos to thrive in cold climates, for their mental and physical toughness and for their resilience?”
For me, that’s the important question. Were these teams named out of respect and admiration, or was it an attempt to be derogatory? Was it meant to be an honorific? I can’t imagine any team intending to call themselves something negative.
Of course, some of the accompanying elements of the team name leave little doubt. Foolish Indian mascots, rhythmic fan chants, and caricatured logos should all be rethought.
For now, I believe the decision to change names should rely for the most part the opinion of actual indigenous people. No longer should we tell them what’s insulting to them and what isn’t.