No athletic team safe from offensive nickname controversy

With the recent announcement of the Cleveland Indians doing away with their infamous Chief Wahoo logo due to racist overtones, it has raised debate over another team changing its name for similar reasons. It has now come into question whether or not the University of Notre Dame should do away with the “Fighting Irish” name and leprechaun mascot.

The topic was brought up on Jan. 30 by ESPN’s Max Kellerman on his show “First Take” with co-host Stephen A. Smith. When discussing the topic on the show, Kellerman mentioned that “many Irish-Americans are not offended” by the team’s name and it is symbolism, “but many are,” he went on to add.

Both Irish-Americans and die-hard Notre Dame fans may have been shocked by hearing that the team should do away with its name. Hearing Kellerman’s claim that many Irish-Americans are offended by the name and mascot is baffling. While there may very well be an Irish-American out there that finds something offensive about the university’s choice, one would at least think someone of that heritage would have said something by now. The idea of the name and mascot being racist likely has not crossed many people’s minds until it was brought up by Kellerman.

Native Americans have complained about logos like the Indians’ “Chief Wahoo” or names like the Washington Redskins for years, and for very good reason. This claim about Notre Dame’s name and mascot being racist or politically incorrect has just recently emerged.

Irish-Americans do not seem to bat an eye at the Notre Dame team name and mascot. This may stem from the idea that a leprechaun is a symbolic part of Irish culture rather than a type of racial stereotype.

As for the name, the word “fighting” just makes for a better sports name. The “Fighting Irish,” as opposed to just the “Irish,” comes off as more intense and gritty. For example, take a look at the University of Illinois. Their team name is the “Fighting Illini.” It is tough to justify that it would sound better if it were just “Illini”. It should not be looked at as anything more than just a sports name.

With all this in mind, trying to make sports as much as racially sensitive place as possible is great idea. However, in the case of Notre Dame’s team name and mascot, unless a majority of Irish-Americans all of the sudden change their minds, things should be left the way they are.


Photo provided by Kamoteus and Erik Drost via flickr

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