Search This Site
Opinion :: Redskin vs. Hawkeye: The overlooked lessons of the mascot debate
· 7:54pm September 11th, 2013
The campaign to get the Washington Redskins to change their name has an Iowa connection -- and a history lesson that seems to be going largely ignored.
The Oneida tribe of upper New York is pressuring Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder to call his team something else. Other tribes, journalists and politicians are joining in the campaign.
"We are concerned that the NFL’s continued use of such an offensive term is undermining its position as a unifying force in America. Americais a society that values mutual respect. Using a slur and making a mascot out of our indigenous culture has no place in such a society," says Ray Halbritter, an Oneidarepresentative.
What most people do not know about this campaign is that it is the second such campaign the Oneidahave initiated this year. A few months ago, the tribe donated $10,000 to the school district of Cooperstown, N.Y. (home of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame) to replace its "Redskins" name and mascot.
Well, the students of the school agreed, and voted to eliminate the old nickname. Now, when the Cooperstownathletes suit up, they will be wearing uniforms with a name quite familiar to Iowans: Hawkeyes.
Hawkeye, of course, is the main character in the 1826 novel "The Last of the Mohicans, written by James Fennimore Cooper. Cooperstown, NY, is not named after that author, but rather, his father, Judge William Cooper.
While I respect the right of Cooperstownstudents and school leaders to decide their own mascot, I have a couple of questions.
1. Have you read "The Last of the Mohicans?"
2. How many Native Americans did Hawkeye kill?
3. What derogatory names did Hawkeye use when referring to Native Americans?
I have observed before that while the NCAA has tried to ban all Native American names and mascots, it has said absolutely nothing about Hawkeye, and all of the Native Americans he killed.
And of those who want to celebrate the change from Redskins to Hawkeyes, I have two questions.
1. Don't they know about Hawkeye's treatment of certain Native Americans?
2. Don't they care?
I grew up as a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. I loved the mascot and his silly costume. Of course, using that mascot is a blatant insult to the Norwegian-Americans among us. It's also an insult to Reid Erickson and the many other Vikings to have their name bandied about by a bunch of people play their sport indoors and can't even beat the Lions.
But the Vikings are just one team that uses names and mascots that depict broad generalizations of certain peoples of the world.
Here are a few other culturally-inspired names of college mascots that the NCAA has not banned: Spartans, Trojans, Pirates, Battlers, Crusaders, Marauders, Swedes, Buccaneers, Fighting Scots, Dirtbags (no, I am not making that up), Battlin' Bishops, Demon Deacons, Quakers, Vandals, Riverwomen, Privateers, Fighting Irish and Norse.
And nobody in the NCAA has ever said a thing about Choker, the rope-holding mascot of Grays HarborCollegein WashingtonState. Although he is named after an important and dangerous job for a lumberjack, he looks like he is ready to commit a seriously violent crime.
There's only one way to avoid using a mascot that does not apply generalities to any civilization, people or tribe past or present: Do away with all mascots that are inspired by humans.
Even if we took that step, you can bet that soon someone would be complaining about the animals offended by their use as our mascot.
9/11: A day we do not remember as well as we think
Trying to decipher tweets about football, and a plea for a brother