Unpopular Opinion: Controversial Team Names Aren’t All That Controversial

The controversy of team names has been a hot topic in the world of sports as of late, and all the attention being brought to the topic has me thinking: are these team names controversial, or are activists just bringing it up to create controversy? Before you gasp in disbelief and accuse me of supporting cultural appropriation, just hear me out.

Think of other team names that aren’t considered controversial. The mascot of a team usually represents something fierce and unstoppable. Panthers, Eagles, Lions, and the list goes on. If a team isn’t named after an animal, it’s named after something that pays respect and homage to the team’s city, country, or background. This is where we get mascots such as the Maple Leafs or the Oilers. So, isn’t it possible that, like these team names, the “controversial” ones are also used to pay tribute to the Indigenous people? In my opinion, having teams such as the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Chiefs remind people of America’s roots. These names aren’t meant to be racist. These names are meant to pay tribute to the strength, excellence, and determination of the Native peoples.

At the end of the day, people are offended by anything and everything. Environmentalists will take issues with the Edmonton Oilers, tall people might take issue with the San Francisco Giants, and perhaps people are offended with the Boston Celtics because of the Irish. If we are going to insist that sports teams change their names to be less controversial, then it should be consistent. Not just for the sports teams with Indigenous based names.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not stubborn in my opinion. I can understand why some people will take offense to these names. But I do not feel like the actions being taken are progressive in any way. It has been reported that many people have boycotted sporting events, reporters refuse to say the name of the teams on broadcast, and merchandise is being destroyed. So, my question is this: why is the team being punished for the name? They did not name themselves. These actions are directly effecting the players, and that isn’t right or fair. There must be a better way to voice your discontent.

Alternatively, maybe those who are offended should see it from a different perspective and accept that team names honour their namesake. The logos and mascots themselves is an entirely different story, and I could see why that may be taken offensively. However, the team names and their mascots are different matters and should be treated as such. Keep this in mind the next time you decided to hop on the bandwagon and protest something you didn’t care about a year ago.

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This is just my two cents (which I fully admit without the penny in circulation is pretty much meaningless). I agree with your comments that the actions taken by certain activists may not be effective in bringing about change, such as damaging merchandise and boycotting games. That said, I can’t disagree with you more when you say that “these names are meant to pay tribute to the strength, excellence, and determination of the Native people.” There must surely be a better way to support the First Nations people than to wear caricatures on their jerseys; perhaps that includes providing support for those in North Dakota protesting against the Keystone Pipeline (as an example). Oppression of certain groups in both Canada and the United States have had long and continuing legacies, and without the actions to back-up the claim that the names are acts of homage, the names become appropriation.