Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

March 7, 2015 — The problem with nicknames

There has been a pretty substantial discussion in the United States about something called “cultural appropriation.”

The act of cultural appropriation is defined as the taking of traditional knowledge or symbols or artifacts from another culture, usually by a dominant culture.

One very sore subject of cultural appropriation has been the naming of professional sports teams using Native American terms, making money off of merchandise with the name Redskins, Indians, Braves, and the like.

This debate has infiltrated college sports, but the resulting changes have been intermittent. Since the 1960s, a number of schools such as Dartmouth, Stanford, Syracuse, Miami University, and St. John’s have changed their names. Others, such as North Dakota, Florida State, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, have not.

Yesterday, a situation developed on the scholastic level when two school districts cancelled lacrosse games with Lancaster (N.Y.), a city of about 41,000 just east of Buffalo. The reason: Lancaster’s nickname are the Redskins.

The two schools initiating the cancellation — Akron (N.Y.) and Angola Lake Shore (N.Y.) — have more than 10 percent of Native Americans in their districts.

Now, this space, in the last 16 years, has never made it a point of not printing nicknames of sports teams.

I guess part of it is because I grew up in a small town in Mississippi whose high-school nickname was Warriors. I think also a part of it is because I have been exposed to sports like organized 3-on-3 basketball and over-the-line softball where nicknames are creatively bizarre. But I also think it’s because I have a more nuanced view than most on this issue.

I’ve always believed that you can name your team whatever you want, but all of the responsibilities of the name you choose falls solely on you and the team.

I’ve noticed that the cancelled games on the part of Lake Shore and Akron were non-conference games. It makes me wonder if these schools would do the same thing if this was in the postseason.


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