By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) “Commit to the Indian.”
It’s the demand former Chicago Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard made about his struggling team shortly before he was relieved of his duties. “The Indian” being the famous logo on the Hawks’ sweaters, one of the most famous and identifiable logos in all of sports.
Maybe it’s because I’m currently taking a class in Native American literature toward my Master’s degree and have been inundated with images and words regarding the plight of Native Americans in this country and have had that old college feeling of being able to change the world for the better rekindled.
More likely it’s also due to the current debate going on between awful scumbag Daniel Snyder and let’s-find-a-way-to-be-wrong-about-another-obvious-issue NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on one side and not stupid people on the other over changing the extremely offensive team name of Redskins, a racist name created by a massive racist.
But I’ve been thinking—why isn’t the Indian head logo more often a topic of conversation when it comes to offensive sports imagery? Why isn’t the organization in the Stanley Cup Final almost ever asked to justify it?
To be honest, I never look at the logo and have a disgusted reaction the way I do when, say, looking at Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo that’s been quietly started to go away. I always found Chief Illiniwek to be pretty stupid and the fanboy love and outrage for his dismissal even stupider. The Hawks don’t use a caricature or slur that other teams have come under fire for.
In fact, there is almost zero Native American “stuff” used by the organization other than just their very famous logo. I don’t mind the Blackhawks Indian head logo. Hell, I’d say it looks pretty badass.
But it’s not about me. And it’s not about you, not Native American Blackhawks fan.
It’s about who it offends, who it bothers, who it makes roll their eyes or shake their head. It is still offensive to some, voices that aren’t as loud as a majority already mumbling to itself that this column is stupid and gay and shut up and history and your gay and shut up, loser. Protestors’ voices were heard briefly in 2010 with the Hawks last Cup run, and they quickly quieted and were forgotten. But why doesn’t the logo get the negative attitude of other controversial team aspects?
Why don’t more people care, including me? I’m not really bothered by the Indian head. I’m so used to it and associating with what so many consider the best uniform in sports that I’ve never thought to question it. But I understand why Native Americans would have a problem with it. Imagine instead if a team used a profile of an African American, Asian, or Hispanic man. It wouldn’t stand for a second. But in this case using one of a minority is fine to most people.
Part of it is most people being fine with things that represent a culture they aren’t a part of. Let’s be frank—most hockey fans are white. White people haven’t had to suffer oppression in this country (no, don’t go searching for examples otherwise, white people, and therefore don’t bring your bad “What about the Fighting Irish or Celtics?” arguments to the table), so I understand why it would be hard to empathize with those who find a “harmless” vision of a Native American problematic or offensive.
Members of a racial minority see it as a small part of a greater problem, though. While you and I might find it harmless, traditional, “what it’s always been,” actual Native Americans see it another way.
And what if the logo were tossed? What if new uniforms and merchandise (yes, I understand the money involved) were created? Statistics don’t get erased. Championships aren’t discredited. Players wouldn’t play less hard. I wouldn’t be less of a fan, nor would you, even if you did bitch and moan and threaten (and lie) to take the same route feces-tossers did when the Bears fired Mike Ditka.
The Blackhawks are not a logo. They were named in tribute to a World War I battalion anyway, not the actual Chief Blackhawk himself. Is anyone still pining for the Native American imagery the Golden State Warriors used to use? Go ask a Marist High School Redhawk if he or she would prefer to be a Redskin still. Has Marquette University suffered from scrapping this?
I’m not putting a logo change at the top of my sports to-do list. Again, I love the Blackhawks sweaters as they are, which maybe makes me racially insensitive. I also understand that the face on them represents a large negative to many people who have every right to look at it that way, and what I like and am comfortable with is not as important as the dignity of a people.
Perhaps one of the NHL’s best promotes some of America’s worst.
“Commit to the Indian” isn’t just an order by a coach or a phrase to be mocked on sports radio. It’s something that might warrant a deeper consideration.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his degree from Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @TimBaffoe , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.