The Chicago Blackhawks need to change their name. Let me first go through all of the context of this season before going into why the name needs to go.
The 2021 NHL season began really badly for the Hawks. The team in their first nine games went 0-7-2, the worst in franchise history. It was basically a hot mess. Not only was this embarrassing as a fan, but it was disappointing for a franchise that won three Stanley Cups in six years.
In the past few years we have seen a steady decline in the team’s performance, no matter how much Patrick Kane tries to carry them to the season finish line. The Hawks finally fired head coach Jeremy Colliton after an impressive 2-9-2 start on Nov. 6, ironically on the same day they fired Joel Quenneville four years prior.
To make matters worse in the midst of this historically bad season beginning, on Oct. 26, an independent investigation commissioned by the NHL found that the team failed to act quickly after a minor league player accused video coach Brad Aldrich of sexual assault.
Multiple executives within the organization failed to report the 2010 accusation, partly because they were worried about distracting the team during the playoff push. The coach was never punished or investigated by the team and he was allowed to quietly resign while the team celebrated the first of many Stanley Cup wins.
This information, along with the horrible start of the season and growing movement by schools and sports teams to not use Native American symbols as mascots, clearly shows the team needs change. This is a rebuilding year, a time to show some growth not only on the ice, but also off the ice.
In today’s world there is no justifiable reason to keep the name. Not only do many fans call the team ‘the Hawks,’ but many teams have changed their names and haven’t crumbled as an organization. Cleveland’s baseball team switched to the Cleveland Spiders, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign got rid of their mascot Chief Illiniwek, and even in Iowa, the Mason City school district dropped their “Mohawks mascot.”
It’s dehumanizing and offensive to have Native American mascots, especially considering the history of our country. The National Congress of American Indians has said for decades that “sports mascots are symbols of disrespect that degrade, mock and harm Native people, in particular Native youth.”
Chicago can easily use the red-tailed hawk as the new mascot, without even having to change the team’s colors. There are other animals or symbols of Illinois that would be appropriate, but the bottom line is that the team needs to change their name.