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The trouble with Lions, Tigers and Bears

Posted: Wednesday, March 07, 2001

When are anti-mascot groups going to lay off? Can anyone tell me?

I listened to the moans and groans at a local level back in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan before I came to Alaska. These groups would complain about how offensive certain mascots were.

This seems to have become a national trend since the birth of sport mascots in our country. First it was the Cleveland Indians and how Chief Wahoo offended Native American groups. That wasn't enough for anti-mascoters. They started complaining about the football teams and the hockey mascots and then, eventually, the high school mascots across the nation. When will they quit?

Most recently under attack is the University of North Dakota's mascot, the Fighting Sioux. It seems that people are becoming offended over a mascot that has been in place with the university for something like 70 years. No one complained about the name from 1997-99 when the women's basketball team won three consecutive Division II national titles.

Where there protests last year when the hockey team won the Division I national championship? I don't recall any. How about when the hockey team won the nationals in 1997? Nope, no complaints then.

The assault on college mascots began sometime back in 1970 and has succeeded in forcing schools to change their name. Look at Oklahoma, who dropped their "Little Red" mascot that used to cheer the Sooners on to victory. A team I met on the rugby field more than once, Marquette University, replaced their Warriors team name in favor of the Golden Eagles. How about Miami of Ohio? The once proud Redskins fans now hoot and holler for the RedHawks.

There are teams that don't fold to the pressure, though. Florida State's mascot, the Seminoles, has told the anti-mascoters to find someone else to bother. The Seminole tribe supports the school and its mascot -- and why not? They are contenders for at least one national title almost every year.

Before I moved from the U.P. there was a lot of controversy over a couple of high school names. The Marquette Redmen were badgered into changing their logo from an Indian chief to a muscle-bound super hero before finally deciding it was a farce and changing it back. The Gladstone Braves were petitioned and picketed at least once a year and they just ignored the comments. Strangely enough, the Escanaba Eskymos barely ever hear a peep about their logo.

Do the teams here in Alaska offend anyone? The Wasilla Warriors? The Barrow Whalers? The Nome Nanooks? How about the Klawock Chieftains or the Aniak Half-Breeds? These teams are proud of their school's history and how the kids compete in games -- isn't it an honor to have a mascot named after a group of proud people?

Let's look at the Boston Celtics and the New York Yankees, you definitely don't see people lining up to march against these team names. You have the Dallas Cowboys and the Michigan State Spartans, but no one is lining up outside of their stadiums to cry foul.

The strangest complaint that I have ever come across was late last year when a group tried to get the Green Bay Packers to change their team name because of the origin of it. The Packers are named after meat packers in Green Bay, which this group claimed promoted the death of animals. One of the suggestions was to name the team the Pickers, after people who pick vegetables. I am dead serious.

Just because a team name somehow promotes the death of animals for the purpose of food they wanted to change it? I would hate to wonder what they would do if they thought about the deaths caused by supersonic jets and the number of people attacked in the world each year by a combination of tigers, lions, bears, wolverines, badgers and sharks -- why don't we change all of the team names to things like the Oakland Daisies and the Miami Floss.

Give me a break already.

Instead of blowing something as harmless as a team mascot so far out of proportion that no one remembers why they complained in the first place, why don't these anti-mascot groups do something useful for these teams? How about paying to get into the game instead of sitting outside and picketing it?

Sam Eggleston is a writer for the Peninsula Clarion. He can be contacted through e-mail at samuel@eggleston.tc.



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