Blackhawks Won't Change Name, Plan to Raise Awareness of Native American Culture

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJuly 8, 2020

Chicago Blackhawks' Dominick Kubalik (8) of the Czech Republic, celebrates with teammates on the bench after defeating the San Jose Sharks 6-2 in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Paul Beaty/Associated Press

The Chicago Blackhawks have no plans to change their name amid calls for other American professional sports teams with Native American-inspired nicknames and logos to re-evaluate their imagery.

Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times relayed a team statement that conveyed Chicago's desire to keep the name and increase awareness of Black Hawk, the Sac & Fox Nation military leader whose name inspired the NHL team's moniker.

They also expressed a need to further "expand awareness" on "important contributions of all Native American people."

"The Chicago Blackhawks name and logo symbolizes an important and historic person, Black Hawk of Illinois' Sac & Fox Nation, whose leadership and life has inspired generations of Native Americans, veterans and the public.

"We celebrate Black Hawk's legacy by offering ongoing reverent examples of Native American culture, traditions and contributions, providing a platform for genuine dialogue with local and national Native American groups. As the team's popularity grew over the past decade, so did that platform and our work with these important organizations.

"We recognize there is a fine line between respect and disrespect, and we commend other teams for their willingness to engage in that conversation.

"Moving forward, we are committed to raising the bar even higher to expand awareness of Black Hawk and the important contributions of all Native American people.

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"We will continue to serve as stewards of our name and identity, and will do so with a commitment to evolve. Our endeavors in this area have been sincere and multi-faceted, and the path forward will draw on that experience to grow as an organization and expand our efforts."

The statement comes days after the Washington NFL team and Cleveland MLB team both relayed that they are re-evaluating their team names.

Debate over the Blackhawks' name hasn't been as prominent as others, but it has been discussed in recent years, especially with the team enjoying recent success with three Stanley Cup wins during the 2010s.

Suzan Harjo of the Morning Star Institute expressed concerns over any Native American nicknames or imagery being used for sports team names in a June 2013 piece from John Keilman of the Chicago Tribune.

"It lacks dignity. There's dignity in a school being named after a person or a people," Harjo sad. "There's dignity in a health clinic or hospital. There's nothing dignified in something being so named (that is used for) recreation or entertainment or fun."

The American Indian Center's executive director at the time, Joseph Podlasek, offered a different viewpoint but said that he was fine with the Blackhawks' name under certain conditions.

"I am OK with both (the name and Indian head logo) as long as the educational process continues," he said.

Steve Inskeep of The Atlantic covered the name in a June 2015 piece but noted mixed reactions from the American Indian Center:

"The Blackhawks have the support of the Chicago-based American Indian Center, which has received grants from the team. But this is tricky. The center's director [at the time], Andrew Johnson, who is Cherokee, told me the center held a town hall meeting where many Indians denounced the team name as racist. He said native culture requires 'respect' for those different opinions."

For now, the Blackhawks' name appears to be staying the same, although it looks like other teams will be altering their names and logos soon.

There is a precedent for that in American collegiate and high school sports, with examples including St. John's, Colgate, Stanford and Dartmouth.

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