I wear a lot of t-shirts. Not all at the same time. Consecutively. I’m not that crazy.
I wear a lot of t-shirts, because one, there is no dress code for the “Not going anywhere.” Two, it’s Southern California, where you can wear pretty much anything you want. (Not just in your house, outside, as well.) Three, it’s generally warm here. And four, I exercise more or less daily, and you don’t really want to hop on the treadmill in a dress shirt. With or without cuff links.
As a result of those four reasons, and probably others that elude me at the moment, I have accumulated, for my everyday use, two dresser drawers full of t-shirts, most of them souvenirs from my travels, tangible memories of fascinating destinations – Ireland, Gettysburg, Northern Indiana – which offer a paralleling service as wardrobe.
On occasion, aware of my affinity for such casual habillements, I am presented with a gift t-shirt from a family member who has returned from distant travels of their own. I am always appreciative of this thoughtful present, though I fear it brings my credibility into question.
“You’re wearing a t-shirt from a place you’ve never been to. How can I trust you about anything?
Okay. So last summer, we were visiting Chicago – on our way home from our cabin in Indiana – and I pick up a t-shirt commemorating the recent Stanley Cup (hockey championship) victory of the local Chicago Blackhawks.
It’s a magnificent t-shirt, modeled after the team uniform. It’s dark black – one of the team colors – and it features as its centerpiece a classic, multi-colored, graphic design.
Of an Indian.
(Wikipedia informs us that the Hawks’ original owner named the team after a military unit he commanded during World War I, the unit itself having been originally named after an Indian. Wikipedia additionally tells us that in 2004, GQ voted the Blackhawks’ uniform one of the 25 best in professional sports. So it’s not like I don’t have taste.)
Okay. Indians as team icons. An issue that pops up on occasion. Though I think it can be generally agreed, that having sports teams named after them is not the Indians’ most serious concern. Still, some people find it offensive.
I, for the most part, do not.
Here comes the inevitable disclaimer. My living room is replete with (Edward Curtis) photographs, paintings, crafts and cultural artifacts, produced by and reflective of
I identify with Indians. They represent a category of people that other people tried to wipe out. I don’t have to spell out the connection.
So there’s that.
But that’s not the issue. The issue is, is it disrespectful to name a sports team, in one variational form or another, after Indians?
The Washington Redskins. That’s pretty much yuckadoodle. But even there…no, I’m not going to defend that. That one really ought to go.
Then, there are the other teams: The Golden State Warriors. The Cleveland Indians. The Atlanta Braves. The Florida State Seminoles.
The Chicago Blackhawks.
To name just five.
Franchises from all the major sports, associating their teams with an Indian motif.
Because they want to disparage Indians?
Why would they want to do that?
“We play hard and demean Indians. ‘Go, Team, go!’”
Does that sound like a winning marketing campaign to you?
Do they name sports teams after Indians to attract more Indian Season’s Ticket holders?
I don’t think so. Do you? That can’t be it.
Which brings us to the distinction, and the only rationalization that would exonerate the Washington Redskins organization from blatant discrimation:
Which is not, even hardliners would probably agree, to discriminate.
Sports teams choose to identify themselves with Indians,
Because Indians are warriors,
Is the underlying thought process. And a reasonable thought process it is. So reasonable, in fact, that I submit that that’s the only thing that’s going on.
The entities choosing the teams’ names’ unquestionable objective is fof their teams to emulate, with every sinew of their being, “warrior characteristics.”
And the ability to sneak up behind people without being heard. Well, maybe not that one. But the other attributes for sure. That’s why they name their teams after Indians.
Inculcating combat aggressiveness is the same reason that teams name themselves after certain “warrior animals” – The Lions, The Tigers, The Panthers, The Bears. There is no sports team I know of called The Mice. Similarly, I am not aware of any sports team venerating the Swiss.
“We’re neutral and we’re proud. Go, Team, go!”
I will not here debate whether the characteristics of warriors ought to be idealized. I will only say that sports teams talk about “Going into battle.” In that context, it fits.
I am also aware that not all Indians were, historically, warriors. But you don’t motivate a sports program by calling them the Arizona Rug Weavers.
If I were an Indian, I would be proud that my people were perceived to possess the characteristics that could inspire a sports team to victory.
But I’m not an Indian. So maybe I don’t get to vote. Until there’s a sports team called the Tennessee Jewboys, I’m just a guy on the sidelines, looking good in his Blackhawks t-shirt.