Over the weekend, President Barack Obama commented on the ongoing controversy over the team name of the Washington Redskins, saying that if he owned the team, he would “think about changing” the moniker.
The team name, which has come under increasing fire lately, likely won't be changed because team owner Daniel Snyder has come out strongly against the idea. That fact didn’t stop a team attorney from going on “Fox and Friends” to challenge Obama’s assertion.
Lanny Davis told the hosts of the show that “President Obama has better things to worry about, but he should look at the Chicago Blackhawks who won the Stanley Cup and he’s never said a word about them.” He also called the fact that Obama decided not to criticize the Blackhawks’ name as using “selective criteria,” and called singling out the Redskins a “selective process.”
The Hawks have been one of the few teams to really evade criticism during the recent surge in protests over Native American-themed nicknames, so in that sense, Davis is right. It does seem “selective” for the president to protest one name like the Redskins over the Atlanta Braves or Cleveland Indians.
After all, both the Hawks and the Redskins have had their nicknames for a very long time, so the traditions of both are deep-rooted. The Redskins adopted their team name in 1937, and the Black Hawks were founded in 1926. The Hawks were named after the “Blackhawk Division” of the 333rd Machine Gun Battalion of the 86th Infantry Division during World War I. They changed their name to “Blackhawks” during the 1986 season after original documents indicated that the nickname should have been one word and now two, and their logo was designed by the wife of original team owner Frederic McLaughlin.
Even though their name hasn’t been under mass scrutiny like the Redskins’ moniker has, they have come under criticism before. In 2010, Canadian sports columnist Damien Cox called on the Hawks to change their team logo, calling it “racially insensitive” and saying “no right-thinking person would name a team after an aboriginal figure these days any more than they would use Muslims or Africans or Chinese or any ethnic group to depict a specific sporting notion.”
Obviously, Cox missed the part of the story where the Blackhawks were actually named after an infantry division (much like the Fighting Illini were named after a battalion and not an Indian tribe), but does the point that he and Davis are making have legs? Should the Blackhawks be pressed to change their logo or name?