Opinion: Team names more offensive than “Indians”

Jacob Ruffo is a junior journalism major and columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

Jacob Ruffo

I get the rage behind the team name “Redskins.” It’s bad, like, really bad. When it gets into non-horribly racist team names based on Native Americans, such as the “Fighting Sioux,” I don’t get it as much. But what I really don’t get is where the rage is over a couple really big universities with horrible mascots that no one really seems to care about.

The Oklahoma Sooners and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are horrible and no one really seems to care.

Several Native Americans, including the Creeks, were relocated to Oklahoma after having their land in Georgia taken. This happened in 1825. In 1866—after the Civil War, since they sided with the Confederacy—the Creeks were forced to cede their land to the U.S. This land became “Public Lands” or “Unassigned Land.” Basically, no one could own any of it.

In 1889, The Great Land Run of ‘89 happened, and tens of thousands of people rushed into the land, formerly owned by the Creeks, and claimed it for their own. The terms “sooner” and “boomer sooner” came into play because people who jumped the gun and tried to cheat to get land before they were officially opened were called “sooners.”

So yes, the Oklahoma sports teams are named after people who tried to cheat at taking former Native American lands. They chant “boomer sooner” at games, and the horses that occupy the sidelines at the football games names are “Boomer” and “Sooner.”

Somehow, people are totally OK with this. Don’t name a team after a Native American tribe, but when your name is people who cheated while taking their lands, that is OK.

Another team with a questionable mascot is Notre Dame. The “Fighting Irish” isn’t bad in a bubble, but when you take into consideration what the logo looks like it becomes a whole new deal.

Apparently all Irish men are leprechauns who wear tiny little green jackets, tiny little green hats and pointy shoes. And just look at that technically sound fighting stance. Just be called the Leprechauns if you like all this. But the Irish? Yikes. This one has a wider reach, too, as many schools have the “Fighting Irish” as its mascot, and all also have that horrible logo.

Notre Dame’s mascot also isn’t a costume with a huge head and cartoony features. He’s just a guy. He’s just a guy in a tiny green hat, tiny green jacket and pointy shoes. You know, traditional Irish garb.

A big, foam cartoon mascot would almost make it OK. Even a different logo would help. If they had a mascot closer to Wake Forest’s Demon Deacon, and just used the Notre Dame logo it wouldn’t be bad. But the name, the mascot and the logo in conjunction should really draw more eyes to how awful they are.

I’m usually not one to lead the charge against things that really don’t matter, like sports team names, but if we’re all being outraged about the bad ones then we better be outraged about all the bad ones.

Jacob Ruffo is an opinion writer for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].