By Saya Alvares
Lately, I have been on a National Hockey League (NHL) kick, reminding myself of my childhood growing up in Canada where everyone absolutely idolizes everything having to do with the NHL. Similar to my recent — and deeper — look at the National Football League (NFL), I found a peculiar flaw that made me recognize the influence and power of another major sports league in the United States. Said flaw is the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks’ jersey features a logo of a specific race, and it has yet to be changed.
During 2020, Americans had plenty of time to contemplate the blatant racism experienced by African-Americans with specific movements gaining popularity such as Black Lives Matter. Subsequently, this movement influenced other aspects of American society. One of those aspects was sports; citizens finally started to call out professional and nonprofessional organizations for racist team names and mascots. One of those instances led the Washington Commanders (NFL) to stop using a derogatory term they had used for the past 87 years, opting for the name change in 2020. Other teams began to get called out as well, for both names and mascots. For example, the Cleveland baseball team changed its team name from the Indians to the Guardians in 2021.
While these are necessary improvements, we cannot pick and choose when to fight these battles. There are still offensive professional sports team names that go unnoticed and should be addressed when Indigenous tribes point out something offensive. The Chicago Blackhawks are a prime example of such incorrect usage of their platform to their fans. The name is said to “honor the U.S. 86th Infantry Division,” nicknamed the “Blackhawk Division” after Black Hawk, a Native American chief based in present-day Illinois. When owners of the team became aware of the offense some Native Americans took to the mascot, they maintained the idea that the logo induced a sense of honor for Native Americans. A disregarded fact is the pure difficulty of changing a logo, from the pure economical standpoint to the attacks from loyal fans.
While I hope the meaning of the logo is genuine, I believe that it should be changed. The team is named after a race with a visual conception of Native Americans plastered on the front of their jerseys; it is strange and unnecessary. There is no need for sports teams to have connections to their old racist roots. The visual similarities between the old Washington football team’s logo — deemed blatantly racist by many —and the current Blackhawks logo are uncanny. They both feature an Indigenous person’s profile with either face paint or a headdress. It is a double standard that only one of these teams got called out and changed. Although I hope that globally every professional sports team eliminates their derogatory behavior, it is essential that the Blackhawks change their name now in order to attain the bare minimal standards of rectitude in the NHL.
(Sources: Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, Chicago Tribune, Business Insider, The Varsity)