An alternative logo for the Blackhawks has been getting some publicity this month, and some have started to wonder if the Blackhawks' logo should soon be retired. Not so fast. While it has long amazed me how the Blackhawks' organization has flown under the radar in many of the debates about whether Indian names and imagery are appropriate in sports, I've always figured it was just hockey's low profile that kept things quiet.
Lately these discussions have started to refer to the Blackhawks more. Perhaps this is overdue or just a reflection on their recent success.
The biggest front on the issue of such team names is, of course, the Washington Redskins, who also have an Indian head profile logo. The logos of the Blackhawks and Redskins are both stoic profiles of an American Indian, and the Blackhawks also include shoulder patches with two tomahawks over a C. The key difference, of course, is that the name Redskins is unarguably an offensive term for an Indian.
Similarly, the Braves' Chief Noc-A-Homa and the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo logos are indefensible by today's standards, and those symbols are no longer in use.
By contrast, the Blackhawks name is free of any derogatory interpretation, and the logo is not a caricature. Furthermore, the team itself has long established ties with Indian groups in Illinois, and have a Native Veteran on the ice for the National Anthem at every home game. The team has fostered a relationship with the American Indian community.
Many people love the Blackhawks' logo, and it's beauty is a big part of why the team's jersey is often named in lists of the best uniforms in pro sports. I like it so much I carved a 25-foot version of it on my backyard rink.
It's not an easy issue though. After all, if you were starting an expansion franchise today for any American sport, isn't it inconceivable that you could call your team an Indian name and have a logo such as the Blackhawks have? But I think the team's history, its relationship with the Indian community, and inertia are currently on the Blackhawks' side in support of keeping it.
Earlier this month the University of North Dakota announced its new mascot for athletics would be named the "Fighting Hawks" rather than "Fighting Sioux", after the University was forced to change by the NCAA. Jonathan Toews wore the UND Indian head logo prior to wearing it for Chicago. It doesn't seem likely he will ever wear a different jersey for Chicago.
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