As part of an ongoing community engagement push by the Chicago Blackhawks, the team announced Wednesday that it will prohibit fans from wearing Native American headdresses to games at the United Center moving forward.
The decision comes amid an intensifying conversation in the sports world around the use of Native American imagery and nicknames. While the Blackhawks have said they intend to keep their nickname and logo, other teams, including the Cleveland Indians, have said they will continue evaluating their usage of their nicknames, and the Washington Football Team has already moved away from its former logo and nickname amid an ongoing review process.
Here is the Blackhawks’ full statement on the decision to ban headdresses:
“On July 7, the organization made a commitment to expand our efforts, serve as stewards of our name and identity and raise the bar even higher for our ongoing dialogue with local and national Native American groups. We thank these Native American partners for their consistent insight throughout the years, as well as the other Native American organizations and community members who have reached out over the last few weeks to share their feedback on how we can best utilize our platform to better educate the public and serve the Native American community.
“As we prepare to return to play and represent you in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in Edmonton, we want our fans to be very clear on what it means to be part of the Blackhawks family, regardless of whether we can be together in the arena. We have always maintained an expectation that our fans uphold an atmosphere of respect, and after extensive and meaningful conversations with our Native American partners, we have decided to formalize those expectations.
“Moving forward, headdresses will be prohibited for fans entering Blackhawks-sanctioned events of the United Center when Blackhawks home games resume. These symbols are sacred, traditionally reserved for leaders who have earned a place of great respect in their Tribe, and should not be generalized or used as a costume or for everyday wear.”
The club, originally called the “Black Hawks,” was named after the “Blackhawk Division” of the 333rd Machine Gun Battalion of the 86th Infantry Division, which served during World War I. That unit had been named after Black Hawk, who served as a leader in the Sauk Native American Tribe during the Black Hawk War of 1832.
The team combined the two words into the nickname “Blackhawks” in 1986.