Like a lot of people, we’re sometimes torn between shaking our head at an increasingly sensitive society and siding with moves to remove disgraceful anachronisms.
Exhibit A can be found with the lengthy battle to get the National Football League’s Washington Redskins to change their name. The name’s not the only thing that fails to pass the sniff test; the logo of a First Nations man is obviously unacceptable.
But the team’s wealthy owner Dan Snyder continues to fight any attempts to change the logo or name on a team founded in 1932. The team’s name was changed from the Braves to the Redskins a year later.
In a letter to season ticket holders in 2013, Snyder wrote that he didn’t agree with critics.
“I respect the opinions of those who disagree. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn. But we cannot ignore our 81 year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country.”
Like Snyder, we understand his opinion but we choose to disagree with him. Hanging on history as a compelling argument is silly.
Other sports teams, including some much closer to Prince Albert, are increasingly moving away from names based on ethnic stereotypes.
The Regina Public School Board said on Monday that Balfour Collegiate teams are dropping their old nickname, the Redmen, for a new name that hasn’t been picked yet.
At the end of the last school year, Bedford Road Collegiate in Saskatoon moved to calling its teams the Redhawks after previously referring to them as the Redmen.
But there is a fine line that we tread as society in defining what is legitimate harm and what is the culture of wounded feelings that we’ve created.
The Regina Leader-Post’s John Gormley weighed in with a terrific column on people’s increasing sensitivity last Friday. It’s well worth finding online.
It’s a point that we’ve made in this space and others before as we read the online comments sent to us. There are at times a frantic quality to the flags that we get on stories and other comments. We’ll drop everything to moderate them only to find that there is nothing offensive about them; the person who flagged the comment simply doesn’t agree with it.
It’s a line we walk in the newsroom on a daily basis with stories as we carefully pick our way through grammatical minefields. If we tread a little closely to offensive, the calls will come the next day.
The coverage hasn’t changed but the way it’s received certainly has.
What those reactions do is blunt the sharp end of the spear that could be used to harpoon names like the Redskins that someone could legitimately take offence to. In a world where everything’s hurtful, the volume of complaining can block real change.
It’s easy to imagine that one day our local high schools will get phone calls objecting to Crusaders or Marauders or Golden Bears because they glorify religious violence in the Middle Ages or oddly coloured mammals.
The mind reels.
Prince Albert Daily Herald