Manitoba hockey team asked to change 'derogatory' Redskins name
Published Thursday, October 29, 2015 9:25AM EDT
A men's hockey team in rural Manitoba is refusing to drop its native-inspired team name, amid accusations the term is an insensitive racial epithet for First Nations people.
Morden city councillor Heather Francis wants the city's senior A men's hockey team, the Redskins, to change their name and logo to something that does not marginalize an identifiable group. The Morden team shares its nickname with an NFL franchise in Washington, and uses a stylized Indian head logo derived from the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks crest.
"To continue using a name that is a derogatory term for a group of people, I think, is unacceptable," Coun. Francis told CTV Winnipeg on Wednesday. Francis adds that she's not the first to raise the issue of the team's name, as a local resident brought it before council last year. "At the time, council decided it wasn't really our role," she said, adding: "I really kind of regret brushing it off."
Francis is scheduled to meet with Brent Meleck, the team's president, to discuss the name early next week. However, Meleck has already said he sees no need to make a change.
"Nothing's broken here, so why fix it?" he told CTV Winnipeg. "I don't see any reason, other than one person's opinion, and is that going to change anything?"
Meleck says the team name is something his players and First Nations people should be proud of. "It's just a name," he said. "We put the jersey on, we wear it with pride. We respect the jersey, we respect everything that has to do with Redskins."
The current Morden franchise has been part of the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League since 1986, and has won more championships than any other franchise in the league. However, they're not the first Morden team to play in the SEMHL. The Morden Bombers played in the league from 1959 to 1963, and then again from 1968 to 1983.
Calls for the team to change its name were met with mixed reactions on social media.
Hey @Morden_Redskins, time for a new name. There's no greater value in sport than respect for others.— Ben Wickstrom (@benwickstrom) October 28, 2015
People asked how they felt about the name "Morden Redskins" were all white. Hrm. #Manitoba— Sonya (@honey_child) October 28, 2015
"No, I don't find it offensive at all," says a white resident of Morden, MB. Re: Morden Redskins Hockey Club. @ctvwinnipeg— James Crampton (@JimCramptonWPG) October 28, 2015
The "Redskins" team name has been a subject of controversy for some time. In Washington, the city's NFL team has faced growing public pressure to change its name, due to the perceived racist implications. Last summer, for instance, a native tribe returned a $25,000 donation it received from the team's charitable organization, the Original Americans Foundation. The tribe said it will not accept future donations or "unsolicited communications" from the organization, which was founded by team owner Dan Snyder in 2014.
Snyder has refused repeated calls to change his team's name. "We understand the issues out there, and we're not an issue," Snyder said in April 2014. He added that the name is a "badge of honour."
Last summer, a U.S. judge ordered the cancellation of the Washington team's trademark registration, and ruled that the nickname may be offensive to native Americans.
Earlier this month, the governor of California banned all public schools in the state from using the "Redskins" nickname for their sports teams. The ban forced four schools to change their teams' names.
With files from CTV Winnipeg