Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm not Mr. PC...

But can we please get rid of sports team names that offend entire segments of society, most often Native Americans? It isn't as if they have not complained and put forth strenuous efforts through our court system to halt this practice. Yet inexplicably these attempts have come up short. Today the Washington Redskins, a team with a horiffic name inspired by the complexion of a race of people, no less offensive than the Rednecks or the Darkies, won another legal victory in a 17-year fight with a group of American Indians who contend the football team's trademark is racially offensive. The decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington doesn't address the main question of racism at the center of the case. Instead, it upholds the lower court's decision in favor of the football team on a legal technicality. The team's attorney successfully argued that they would have suffered great economic loss if they lost the trademark registrations since millions of dollars have been spent on the brand. A number of nitpicking reasons were given by the court in defense of their decision. With all due respect, I think the decision is BS and a total shame. No professional sports organization (or collegiate or any other level for that matter) should have a name that is based on the nationality or race or religion of a group of people. Other descriptive categories such as handicapped or stutterer or suffering from halitosis or wears hair in a comb over style should be considered taboo as well. The Washington Redskins is no less offensive a name than the New York Middle Easterners or Los Angeles Mexicans or Mississippi African Americans or Florida Jews. I feel Washington's football team should change its name regardless of the outcome of any lawsuit just as their basketball team went from being known as the Bullets to the Wizards because they did not want a moniker that associated them with criminal violence. Not a single wizard, warlock or witch registered a complaint to my knowledge. Our nation's capital (of all places) is not the only guilty party, although they are certainly the worst offender. Atlanta also should in good conscience change the name of its baseball team because Braves does not strike me as particularly kosher (at least they have made some logo modifications over the years), and ditto for the Kansas City Chiefs. Cleveland should pick a local treasure to name its baseball team after (the LeBrons perhaps) rather than being known as the Indians. Perhaps people in India would be peeved as well were it not for the fact that Cleveland's team logo is clearly not a person from Calcutta. I'll ignore bothersome team names in the NHL because ignoring the existence of hockey is one of the things I do best, up there with my refusal to acknowledge soccer. No doubt rightful complaints have been registered about some if not all of the names I've mentioned and several I've neglected to comment on [click here for a list of them], and the voices of dissent have continually been ignored because it would be monetarily inconvenient to appease a minority group. Let people operate casinos legally and I suppose you can then feel free to license their image any way you choose. There are arguments that appear to be so self evident that you wonder why you need to make them in the first place, yet here I am making this plea. Franchise owners, if a single person in this country or beyond its shores is insulted by the name of your sports franchise (I'm going on record as finding the Indians, Braves and Redskins to be inappropriate, and for that matter I see no good reason for Notre Dame to have a team called the Fighting Irish because surely there are some Irish pacifists who perhaps refer to themselves as Celtics, so out with that name too), why would you possibly want to go by such a name when there are countless others to choose from that wouldn't bother anybody at all? Imagine the boost to tourism in Minnesota if their football team did not insist on stereotyping and therefore alienating the Scandinavian ancestors of Vikings who probably enjoy wearing a wide variety of hats. This isn't political correctness, folks. It's plain old common sense.

- Roy Pickering (Author of Patches of Grey and Feeding the Squirrels)

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