News / Winnipeg

From Cleveland to Neepawa: Indigenous advocates question Manitoba sports team logos

Sports teams should recognize when their names are racist and change them – regardless of tradition – says one student advocate.

Trevor Bauer #47 of the Cleveland Indians leaves the field looking at his bloodied finger during the first inning in Game 3 of the ALCS baseball series against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, October 17, 2016.

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Trevor Bauer #47 of the Cleveland Indians leaves the field looking at his bloodied finger during the first inning in Game 3 of the ALCS baseball series against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, October 17, 2016.

Some say they're culturally offensive, others say they're beloved sports symbols.

While many Canadians are upset about the Cleveland Indians’ branding as the baseball team goes to bat with the Toronto Blue Jays, at least a trio of questionable sports team names are cause for concern closer to home, according to indigenous advocates.

The Neepawa Natives and Charleswood Hawks are junior hockey teams in Manitoba, while the Morden Redskins are a senior team in the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League. Each team uses a logo very similar to the Chicago Blackhawks’, portraying an indigenous chief.

Aboriginal Students’ Council representative Teddy Lands said sports teams should recognize when their names are racist and change them, regardless of tradition.

“I still find it very oppressive, very demeaning. I’m a big baseball fan, but I refuse to watch the (Atlanta) Braves play because of the whole chop tomahawk (chant) that they have,” Lands said. “It’s not fair and very disheartening, especially in this day and age when people are a little bit more culturally sensitive… it’s a long fight, it’s a long battle. And if I could wave my magic wand, we wouldn’t have teams like the Indians or the Braves or the Warriors.”

For at least the Natives and the Hawks, their names and symbols are decades old and the teams’ managers don’t have plans to change them. (The Redskins did not return calls for comment before press time.)

Neepawa Natives’ general manager Myles Cathcart said the team has been using their name since the 1960s with no complaints from the public. They asked permission from three nearby First Nations teams to use the title respectfully, he said.

The Charleswood Hawks’ logo has been in use since 1970, according to the club’s president Wayne Deschouwer.

Deschouwer noted the team has aboriginal fans that cheer them on and aren’t bothered by the logo.

“It’s not a caricature, it’s a brave chief,” he said, adding more than 500 young men have proudly donned the Hawks’ logo in seasons past.

On Monday, an Ontario judge dismissed a bid to ban the Cleveland Indians full name and team logo in their playoff games with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Last year, a Morden city councillor put forward a motion to ask the Redskins’ to change their team name, which she called “derogatory.” The motion was shot down 5-2 in a council vote.

Afterward, Heather Francis said she approached the team directly.

“They had absolutely no appetite to change unfortunately,” she said in an interview Monday. “With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and everything that’s come out in the last few years, I’m kind of a little bit baffled as to why people wouldn’t be willing to change now in light of what we know in 2016.”

Francis said she feels like she’s hit a stalemate with the team, but isn’t giving up her fight.

What do you think? Are these sports names culturally offensive or harmless? Tweet at us @metrowinnipeg.

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