Politically Correct Sports Mascots

Some team mascots have been called politically incorrect. Here is a sampling of the arguments that have been made, with my take inserted, then progressing on to a survey of some of the more curious examples of team symbols.

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The Washington Redskins.  There, I’ve said it.  Now, I’m one who thinks political correctness often goes way too far and is often misguided and even passive agressive, but I can’t argue that this one is not objectionable.  It refers directly to a minority group and actually identifies them by their skin color.  It’s pejorative quality cannot be denied.  Even worse, they represent the very capital of the nation.   About the only apology that could be made for it is perhaps a grandfather clause.  When the name was chosen, people were not really aware that the term was offensive, and now the team has been around so long that it’s a sort of traditional institution.  Anyway, the point is that I can see a real problem with this team nickname.  However, just about all other team mascots that have come under fire have been unfairly targeted.

One notch down from Redskins is Indians.  Now this was for a long time, and still is to some extent, an official designation for a certain group of people.  Of course, there is the unfortunate fact that the term was originated based on a gross inaccuracy.  Real Indians live in that Asian subcontinent that Columbus failed miserably in finding.  Native Americans is a much more accurate term.  Of course “The Cleveland Native Americans” doesn’t exactly have a catchy ring to it.  As to using ‘Indians’ as a team nickname, I’m ambivalent.  Native Americans are divided on this too.  Some still refer to themselves as Indians, some don’t have a strong feeling about the term one way or the other, and some find the term offensive.  Some simply find it offensive to be the icon for a sports team at all, having to rub elbows with Bears and Jets and Avalanche (no plural).  They often point out that other types of people are not represented in this way.  Of course, this is far from the truth.  Oh, there are no teams called the Whities or Honkies or Spics, but there are dozens of teams like the Boston Celtics, St. Mary’s Gaels, Vanderbilt Commodores, Green Bay Packers.  All of those nicknames refer to people in some respect.  Celtics and Gaels refer to a broad cultural designation which we tend to think of as the Irish.  I’m partly Irish-American, and this doesn’t disturb me in the least. 

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1 Comment
  1. Posted January 19, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Just as an aside…the Manchester United Football Club does have a mascot. They are known throughout Europe as the “Red Devils”. This Red Devil is on their Club Crest.

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