Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

What’s in a team’s name? Plenty

News out of Albany recently announced that South Albany High School has decided to surrender its Rebels nickname for something more acceptable even though the old name has been quite difficult for some to give up.  It’s been used at South Albany for years. While its origin was the Confederacy, adopted as a battle cry in fighting the North, the objective being to preserve, protect and perpetuate the enslavement of their fellow African-American citizens.

Such a time from our past cannot be labeled anything other than grossly inhumane since it’s indisputably known that African-Americans are just as human as all the other homo sapiens: the difference solely skin color with all other body parts identical. Nevertheless, a war was fought by Americans against other Americans, resulting in 1.5 million casualties.  So, how many modern day Americans feel right about attending sports events where participants and spectators cheer for the Rebels?

Meanwhile, although the matter is not brand new to Oregon, a few moons ago one of its secondary schools, Cleveland High School, argued long and hard, with many a bitter feeling aroused, to preserve their Indians mascot.  Now, we, the informed among us, know how the American Indians, and original dwellers of what became known as North America, were treated. The real American Indians, those same real natives who settled in North America—long before European explorers arrived—having their name taken to celebrate victory or defeat in sports events.  Incidentally, at Cleveland High in Portland, Indians has been replaced by Warriors.

Never wanting the dust to get entirely settled in mascot land, there now brews in Portland another mascot donnybrook. This time it’s over Quakers as a mascot name for Franklin High School.  Never mind that early and famous American patriot Benjamin Franklin was never a Quaker, the founders of Franklin High somehow decided that would be a better mascot name that, for arguments sake, “lightening,” as old Ben had something to do with enlightening humankind vis-a-vis the fundamentals of electrical conduction.

A formal complaint was made with the Portland Public Schools Education Board over the use of Quakers at Franklin High and the complaint resulted in the PPS board devoting a year to choose a new name.  The complaint was explained as Quakers is the name of an organized religion and, as such, is “inappropriate, offensive, and unconstitutional” for use as a school’s mascot name.  Incidentally, the board, after receiving the complaint, has decided to review all its district naming policies and make changes accordingly.

Whether an issue is viewed as great or small often depends upon the beholder.  The mascot debates are probably considered by many Americans as small issues. Nevertheless, no matter the degree of importance, these debates are symbolic of the American spirit since colonial times to try to serve the needs and concerns of all citizens rather than what’s narrowly self-serving and self-centered, biased and prejudicial.  It is the belief of this writer that we Americans should do everything possible to pull together: A prevailing condition of cooperation and sensitivity for all, hopefully enabling our nation to reunite as in some former times where every American sees this as a place to call home.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)