I understand the Native Americans’ objections to certain team names.
Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington football team, has attempted to defend Redskin’s old name as denoting “honor, respect and pride.”
Adrienne Keene, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a faculty member in the Department of American and Ethnic Studies at Brown University, responded, “I would be honored and respected as an Indigenous person if our treaties were honored, if our sovereignty was recognized, if our lands were returned to the hands of the natives. These are the kinds of things that honor me as a Native, not a stereotypical image combined with a racial insult.
Any group of people can define what is derogatory to them and we must respect that. So I understand.
But there are certain team names that need to go, not because they necessarily demean a particular group of people, but simply because they are ridiculous.
Here are just a few:
Jordan High School Beetdiggers (Utah). The name was chosen because of the large areas surrounding the schools which were fields of sugar beet. Until about 1950, at harvest time, classes were canceled for a week or two vacation in October, allowing students to attend the harvest. That’s a great explanation, but as one Athlon Sports blogger noted: “The nickname is scary. If you are a beet.
Kimberly High School Papermakers (Wis.). They play at Papermaker Stadium. The town of Kimberly and the surrounding area is home to many paper mills, including Kimberly Clark. “The paper represents such a big part of Wisconsin history,” wrote Steven Okonek for On Focus, “it’s surprising that more schools don’t take on the Papermaker mascot.” Not that surprising to me. Is that a name you want on your jersey when you go to fight in the football trenches?
Grafton / St. Thomas (ND) High school spoilers. As this Athlon Sports blogger put it: “Isn’t the nickname ‘Spoilers’ a concession that you suck and can only hope to spoil the season for a good team?
Cairo (Ga.) Lycée Siropmakers. In 1986, ESPN named “Sirupmaker” the number one nickname for a high school sports team. I don’t know if this selection was number one for weirdness or if ESPN was serious. Many years ago, during a heavy rainstorm in the middle of a football game, workers at the local syrup factory brought their raincoats labeled “Roddenbery’s Syrup” to keep players dry. Reflecting this heritage, the football team was named the Sirupmakers. The school mascot is a jug of syrup.
Mount Clemons, Michigan High school battling bathers. Named after the mineral baths that were found in the area. Former NFL defensive lineman Wally Chambers is a former student. I wonder how many teases he got from his Chicago Bears teammates when they learned his high school’s nickname. And who is their mascot? A guy or a girl in a swimsuit?
Watersmeet (Mich.) Nimrods. As Athlon Sports pointed out, “In the Bible, Nimrod was a mighty hunter. No one knows their Bible anymore. Today, a nimrod is just a jerk.
High school maniacs Orofino (Idaho). Orofino is home to a mental hospital, State Hospital North. In 1993, the Idaho Alliance for the Mentally Ill wrote a letter to the school board asking that the mascot be dropped because it stigmatizes and “perpetuates the old stereotype of the mentally ill.” It turns out that the name “maniacs” was first coined in 1927 after a feverish basketball game with neighbor Kamiah and had nothing to do with the hospital. The mascot logo features a screaming and jumping man with bushy black hair. The school board said the mascot “is not intended to represent an inpatient undergoing shock treatment as the alliance described it.” The council decided to keep the nickname.
Teutopolis (Illinois) Wooden shoes. In this small town southeast of Chicago, the wooden shoe has been around for over 150 years. Around 1860, George Dymann, a German immigrant, came to the city and started making wooden shoes. As Athlon Sports said of the team: “They are particularly loud on the basketball court. But slow.
Freeburg, Illinois high school midgets. This name has also been disputed, with the Little People of America urging the school district to change the nickname. The high school chose the mascot decades ago after a David and Goliath basketball game where Freeburg won. The district chose to keep the name. “Once a Midget, always a Midget,” said Board Secretary Kim Towers. “Our community is happy to be Midgets, and that’s where it’s happening. In 2013, the Huffington Post listed the name Midget as one of the “dastiest” in the country.
Scottsdale, Arizona Community College Fighting Artichokes. Born during a period of student unrest in the early 1970s, Artie the Artichoke was adopted as the school’s mascot to express a difference of opinion regarding budget priorities. Originally intended to be an embarrassment, Artie has been adopted by students, athletes, staff, and the community as a beloved character. I would love to see them play UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs.