Stanley Cup Finals Racism Getting Little Attention

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Updated: June 13, 2013
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By On June 11, 2013

The Stanley Cup Final will showcase a racist team name. Is it time to question that name?

The Stanley Cup Final is set, and I am oh so excited to see some amazing hockey. Both teams are original six teams and bring both grit and scoring to the ice. This series should be epic.  The Chicago season start has had them as an early favorite from the day the lockout ended while the big bad Bruins have returned to form after a disappointing exit from last years playoffs to dispatch the Penguins (most peoples, including my own, pick to win the cup this year) in just four games.  It should be an amazing mix of skill against toughness when the second city and bean town collide for the greatest prize in sports.  Both teams bring great defense and a goaltender with something to prove so I am betting we see some wicked good saves not just in Boston but in Chicago too.

But can we also at least have a conversation in the hockey community about the racist nature of a team being named the Blackhawks while using a native crest on their sweaters?

Many in the sports community has largely accepted that the R*dsk*ns in Washington, DC should change their name due to its overwhelming racism. In DC we are seeing the tide turn against this racist team name. This past year there have been Symposiums on Racist Stereotypes, petitions to Roger Goodell, increased mainstream media coverage, and direct pressure from local DC government for stubborn owner Dan Snyder to do the right thing.

However in Chicago there seems to be little questioning of the Blackhawks name. I was just in Chicago and even amongst hockey fans who are anti-racist activists there is little desire to change the name despite clearly seeing it as clearly problematic.

Others make excuses. Many Chicago fans will argue that it is not racist and this is the rankings of the PC army. They will talk about how the founder of the Black Hawks was named after his Army. They will say that there are some polls suggesting that natives are not offended by the name. But are these arguments really valid?  I would argue not.

The Black Hawk unit was named after the native Chief Black Hawk so it is still a native name. Furthermore Chicago chooses to use a native face on the crest of their sweaters rather than the army unit patch. The 86 Infantry Division uses a logo of an actual black hawk that looks rather cool if you ask me. Chicago further blurs this linkage by shortening the name from two words to one shifting away from the army unit and towards a racially charged native name.

As to the polls that suggest American Indians are not offended, I am not sure a poll can speak for all native peoples as there is no monolithic belief system for any group.  We do know that many Native Americans are offended and clearly want a name change. I will say that as a hockey fan and an anti-racist activist I am offended by the use of a people as mascots.  My brother often says that he is no racist and he just wants to watch the games, but we should always confront white supremacy in our lives if we are going to eradicate it.  Supporting these team names does not make my brother a racist, but it means he is supporting systems of oppression and white supremacy because he will not stand up and call out wrong when he sees it.  Just wanting to watch the games ignores the people who make it all possible and supports a culture that devalues the lives of people of color.

I will freely admit that the Washington football team is by far more racist than Chicago’s NHL team, but that does not get Chicago off the hook. We don’t want to reduce the impact of racism – we want to eliminate it. Let’s be real as hockey fans and try to get this racism out of our sport.

This is a vestige of a time that has past and we should change along with time. Chicago has a great history full of possibilities for a great team name. Maybe Chicago could look at its labor history for a name instead of mocking a people that we committed genocide against. Maybe Chicago media can lead effort for a name change as The Washington City Paper has done in DC. Or maybe instead of sitting and waiting for a historic name change from Washington, Chicago can lead the way.

One Comment

  1. Gary Norris Gray BASN Staff Reporter

    June 14, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Great Article you taught me some history today because I thought it was for the Blackhawk National Tribe. I’m African American – Native American Indian from the Leni-Lenape Tribe of New Jersey-New York. I’m happy for the Blackhawks because they have three brothers on the team with one being Goal Brother Ray Emery one of the greatest goalies of our time.
    I have been in constant battle over the name of the Washington Football Club from 1998 writing letters and articles.
    Keep educating my brother that is all we can do and thank you for this article

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