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Continental Divides: How New Zealand’s Chiefs Handle Native Peoples’ Iconography & Naming

Rugby Haka Splash

By Phil Hecken

Uni Watch (and ESPN, via Paul) have recently done some in-depth investigation of the relationships between American sports teams who use either Native American names (racist or not), iconography and logos, and attempted to engage in discussion of the way teams interact (if at all) with the native populations from whom their names, symbols or logos are derived. While we in the United States might like to think we have a monopoly on this issue, we’re far from alone here.

Recently, I was approached by Uni Watch reader Caleb Borchers (whose name you may recognize from numerous ticker submissions dealing with Rugby uniforms, and with whom I’ve worked before), who asked if I would be interested in an article he had written on a very interesting topic. Specifically, Caleb asked me, “All the talk about the Native American issue on Uni Watch got me to thinking about something in my own corner of the uniform world that I find interesting. As I’ve done in the past, I worked a little something up, in part to help me think through it.”

“Wow” I said. He continued, “You’d be welcome to use it if it would help you in your weekend programming. A little farther afield than things I’ve contributed in the past, but still connected in my mind.”

With that, I’m pleased to present to you this tremendous piece from Caleb. Sit back as we…

. . .

Meet the Chiefs
By Caleb Borchers

Over the last few months, the issue of Native American imagery in US sports has been a hot topic in the Uni Watch community. Sadly, that discussion often devolves into heavily stereotyped positions and name calling. I often feel for writers like Paul, because his fascinating and nuanced position quickly is flattened out. What follows is my attempt to add another data point or scenario to the discussion.

Some Uni Watch readers may recognize my name in connection with rugby, particularly New Zealand rugby. That nation and sport have a special place in my heart. New Zealand is a nation with a fascinating history when it comes to the indigenous people, the Maori. The relationship between European settlers and the Maori people has often been sad and tragic. Still, there are ways in which New Zealand has better handled the issue than other places. A treaty between settlers and Maori chiefs, the Treaty of Waitangi, serves as the founding document of the country.


The treaty is still law and a tribunal investigates failures to follow through on the treaty. About one in every eight people in New Zealand are Maori and the Maori population is growing at a faster rate than the European population. When you compare to nations like Australia (2.5% indigenous population) and the USA (1%) clearly the Maori have flourished proportionally. Many government buildings have English and Maori signage. “God Defend New Zealand” is sung first in Maori. The haka is a point of national pride in the sporting world. These are small things and Maori people still have many legitimate complaints about their treatment historically and currently. Still, there is a level of awareness and respect in New Zealand’s culture that most Americans do not have about the USA’s indigenous peoples.

In this context, we turn our attention to the Chiefs, a professional franchise that began in 1995. Their logo and colors are largely derivative of those of the Waikato region in which they are based. The Chiefs represent much of the middle of the northern island of New Zealand, including areas, such as Rotorua, which are renowned for their connection to Maori culture and populations. The logo shows a Maori chief carrying the traditional kotiate weapon. The kotiate was used in warfare, but also plays a role in speech giving. The logo clearly plays on stereotypes of the Maori people and their violent past.


In 2011, the Chiefs hired a new coaching staff, led by coach Dave Rennie. One thing that the new staff did was try to connect the team with the Maori population, culture, and history that the team’s logo invokes. These efforts included using Maori names and philosophical concepts as a framework for their various game plan elements, as well as using tribal names in their team organization. The fact that many of the Chiefs players are Maori (or at least qualify for participation with the Maori All Blacks) helps.

As the 2012 season went on, the team began to include more Maori elements in their uniforms and identity. Their early season jersey had added sublimated Maori designs by the end of the year. They continued to include Maori cultural performers at the games. Most unexpected was the Chiefs’ development of their very own haka. While many schools have their own hakas, and the national teams have their own, this was a first at Super Rugby level. The team quietly created and practiced the haka and debuted it only after winning the 2012 Super Rugby final. For good measure Hika Elliot, who led the haka, brought along props (that’s him on the far right). Chiefs players have created a broader relationship with the cultural group who aided them in the haka creation and some players attend haka competitions to support the group, just like they attend Chief games.

Already in 2013 the Chiefs are continuing their connection to Maori culture. As part of their preseason training they followed a path connected to a historic Maori migration. The trip included not only exercise, but some time to connect with traditional Maori communities.

The way the Chiefs connect with the Maori is fascinating in the discussion of the use of Native American imagery. On the one hand, the issues still don’t go away. The Chiefs still are profiting from imagery and traditions they don’t own. In many ways they continue to perpetuate an image of Maori culture connected to violence and savagery. One could also challenge how appropriate it is to use traditional cultural elements in commercial contexts. Should they really pay Maori performers to come to games, like some sort of indigenous cheerleaders? Should the haka be used in a way similar to the Lakers Girls dance team?


On the other side, the amount of respect, time, and energy that is put into the Chiefs connection to the Maori culture is remarkable. Someone has clearly spent time studying Maori culture, philosophy, and values. The haka and cross country training trek are two gestures that took incredible forethought and time. Given how jealous most coaches are of every moment of practice time, Rennie has shown that he at least appreciates team culture and bonding better than most. Whatever the appropriateness of the connection between sport and the Maori, one cannot blame the Chiefs for doing it in a way that is neither cheap nor easy. Some of these initiatives are also being fueled by Maori players, like former New Zealand Maori captain and Chief co-captain Liam Messam.

What if this sort of concern was shown in American contexts? More than just some guy in a headdress throwing a javelin into the turf, what if Florida State required all student athletes to take a course in Seminole culture? What if the Cleveland Indians regularly were involved with Erie tribe youths? Would it be appropriate for the Blackhawks to have an Illini song performed during games? Is American culture too divorced from that of Native American tradition to make this possible?

The Chiefs story over the last two years is evidence that use of indigenous peoples’ imagery and names does not have to be crass, cheap, and easy. Some issues remain, but it seems far more palatable than what American sports fans see.

.. … ..

Thanks, Caleb. Great piece! Readers? What say you?


all sport uni tweaks

Uni Tweaks Concepts

We have another new set of tweaks, er…concepts today. After discussion with a number of readers, it’s probably more apropos to call most of the reader submissions “concepts” rather than tweaks. So that’s that.

So if you’ve concept for any sport, or just a tweak or wholesale revision, send them my way.

Please do try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per image — if you have three uniform concepts in one image, then obviously, you can go a little over, but no novels, OK? OK!. You guys have usually been good with keeping the descriptions pretty short, and I thank you for that.

Like the colorizations, I’m going to run these as inline pics — click on each one to enlarge.

And so, lets begin:


We begin today with Dan Martell, who has some new looks for the Brooklyn Isles:

Hey Phil,

Hope the holiday’s have treated you well.

Well today I’ve been stuck inside due to the snow storm hitting the east coast so I decided to pass the time tweeking the Islanders uniform in preparation for the eventual Brooklyn move.

Brooklyn Islanders - Dan Martell

Brooklyn Islanders - Dan MartellBrooklyn Islanders - Dan Martell

Future Home: For this uniform, as well as the away, you can see I’ve pretty much left the original color scheme and design. However the big change I made was the logo on the uniform itself. I’ve taken the Islanders logo and changed it to have a bit of a Brooklyn twist. The full logo can be seen as the fifth picture in the show.

Future Away: As previously stated, I’ve kept the overall uniform scheme the same but have updated the jersey logo. (I’d love for the NHL, if it ever returns, to switch back to the white home jersey)

Brooklyn Islanders - Dan Martell

Brooklyn Islanders - Dan Martell
Brooklyn Islanders - Dan Martell Brooklyn Islanders - Dan Martell

Future Alt Home: Now with these uniforms you can see a complete new look for the Islanders. With the team moving to Brooklyn, home of the Nets, I’ve opted to use the Nets template as the basis for the Isles. The primary color is black with silver and white sleeve and sock stripes. Another significant change is the uniform logo. In the logo I took the Brooklyn Nets logo border and took the Islanders light house alternate logo from the mid 1990s and blended the two.

Future Alt Away: Similar changes to the Alt Home but the logo is black instead of grey.

Hope you enjoy looking at these,

Have a great New Year,


. . .

Next up is Jonah (No last name Given), with a new court design for the Blazers:

Jonah - Blazers Court Design

Hi Phil,

This is a new Portland Trail Blazers court design for next year that I designed, adding more color and design to what is currently a fairly boring court. I added more red and black, and in addition, added silver for the accents around the key and inside the key. The mid court logo stays the same, while adding rip city on each end of the floor. The outside border of the court switches from black to red, while the key is primarily black with red at the top. Also, assuming the Blazers new alternate uni’s for this season become the new set for all of their jerseys next season, I put the new typeface used on the jersey on the baselines of the court. Ideally, one of the baselines would say trailblazers, but I could not find an example of that in the new typeface. Sorry for the sloppy job, did this in a hurry, but I hope you enjoy it none the less.

– Jonah

. . .

And we close today with Kevin Wos who seems to have big plans for the NHL:

Chicago - Kevin Wos


In celebration of the NHL lockout ending, I’ve decided to Nike-fy the whole league. First up is the Blackhawks, the changes to which are very limited because you don’t fix what isn’t broken.

Kevin W.

. . .

And that’s it for today. Back with more next time.


Stirrup Friday

Stirrup Fridays…

Because we love the stirrup here at Uni Watch, this section is devoted to those of us who sport the beautiful hose on Fridays — a trend popularized many years ago by Robert P. Marshall, III. For many of us, it’s become a bit of an obsession, but a harmless one — a reflection of our times. Where we once had Friday ties, which has been replaced by Casual Friday — we now have Stirrup Fridays. It’s an endearingly simple concept — no matter where you work (or even if you don’t) — break out a fresh pair of rups to compliment (or clash with) your Friday attire.

Things are picking up, now that pitcher & catchers have reported and Spring Training is underway. We also had the very unfortunate passing of UW stalwart Mike Hersh a little over a week ago…so some of the ‘ruppers decided to honor him, as you’ll see. And, of course, Tuesday was PÄ…czki day. And you know what that means, right?… Here we go:

. . . . .

Marty Hick - UW Rups

Marty Hick:

Hey fellas,

Clara Jane was baptized earlier today. I went with the Uni Watch originals. After Terry Proctor’s suggestion, I donned a black memorial band for Mike Hersh.

The boots hide the fact that they are indeed stirrups, but it was nice knowing they were there.


. . .

Stirrup Memorial - Coleman Mullins

Coleman Mullins:


I’m wearing these all week. I may not have known Mike personally, but he sure Got Itâ„¢, and we’ll all miss him.



. . .

Paczki-Dave Rakowski

Dave (Last Name withheld upon request):


Here my Fat Tuesday edition of Stirrup Friday.

My Paczki stirrups with my Polish Paczki treat.

Please just include first name Dave if posted on UW…..trying to stay off grid.

Dziekuje (Thank you in Polish)


. . .

James Poisso - UW Rups

James Poisso:


Since Spring Training is underway, I am marking the occasion with the official Uni Watch Stirrup. No better way to mark the return of baseball.

James Poisso

. . .

John Kimmerlein - UW Rup

John K:


I am proudly wearing the Uni Watch stirrups today. With only a few repeats, I was able to make it all the way from the World Series to pitchers and catchers with a different pair each week. Kind of helps bridge the off season, and the UW ‘rups are a fitting finale. It is also fitting (but sad) that the memorial stripes for Mike Hersh grace the UW ‘rups.

John K

. . .

Red Sox - Justine DeCotis

Justine DeCotis:

Hi Phil,

Going with Red Sox stirrups under boots today. No reason but ended up being more comfortable than I thought it would be.

Thanks for all your hard work on Uni-Watch, I’ve been an avid reader for a while now.


. . .

Joe Owen - "Red & Black"

Joseph Owen:


Heading to the Cincinnati-Georgetown game tonight, so I broke out the red and black ‘rups. Go Bearcats.

Joe Owen

. . .

Wilmington Blue Rocks - Jason Christie

Jason Christie:


My stirrup Friday couldn’t be “public,” per se, but I was rocking them under my uniform anyways! I live in Delaware and I picked up some Wilmington Blue Rocks stirrups after I saw them on their site.

Jason Christie

. . .

Robert Marshall - Paczki Rups

Comrade Robert Marshall:

comrade phil,

In honour of my favourite holiday, pÄ…czki day, I hopped the #8 bus, and traveled a few blocks to a bakery across the street from the olde Union Stockyards for an assorted box of stuffed and fried dough. Now that is a pÄ…czki!

comrade marshall

. . .

And that ends today’s look at Stirrup Friday — all of you who participate, send me your pics and a brief (~50 words) description of their relevance, and I’ll run ’em here on Saturday (and sometimes Sunday too!). Be sure to visit Robert’s House of Hose for news on rups. Wanna see what’s new this week? CLICK HERE!

And now…here’s …


Stirrup Header

Comrade Marshall’s Rupdate:

Greetings comrades,

First off, it is time to give away the last two Uni Watch stirrups for the photos that Phil has posted over the last month. James Poisso clearly deserved one for not only his dedication to stirrup Friday (which he’s sporting today), but taking the time to document it every week. In addition, I absolutely loved this tilt shift photo from Soukie Outhavong clearing snow, it is so perfectly in the spirit of stirrup friday.

As for the revolution, the first of three large orders from TCK has shipped to me and will be here Monday, so the Orioles, Cardinals, Rays, Astros, Phillies, Red Sox, and Braves are back in stock. Part of this first order was the cycling stirrup, so those will ship out early next week.

On Friday I ordered some 1954 White Sox, but I will not be taking the discounted pre-orders for a week or two. The factory is so busy that manufacturing times are running long, so consider this is a heads up that these will be the discounted “new” selection soon.

from each according his stirrvp,
to each according his strype.



Just Pull It

One of the sadder (and possibly sordid) stories of the past couple days, which seemed to fly below the radar, was the news that Oscar Pistorius, olympian and Nike-sponsored athlete — the “fastest man on no legs” (and wonderful story) — was arrested and charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. If you’re not familiar with the story, you can read about it here.

We’ve discussed Pistorius on Uni Watch a few times, most recently during the Summer Olympics, where keen observers noticed that Nike had branded Pistorius’ running blades (here’s what the bottom of the blade looks like; here’s another view). Not surprisingly, Nike also built some branding campaigns around Pistorius, especially leading up to the London Olympics.

One such ad featured a very unfortunate and ironic tag line, in light of the shooting death of Pistorius’ girlfriend. That had, until Thursday, been featured on Pistorius’ website — it’s since been taken down. I’ve searched several articles posted on the Interwebs, but I’ve still been unable to determine if it was actually Nike who pulled the ad, or someone else. Either way, it’s no longer on Pistorius’ site. I’d like to think it was Nike who did so.

Other sponsors are also removing Pistorius’ image from other ads. Clearly, until such time as this case is resolved, the man is toxic.

I remember when I first heard of Oscar Pistorius at least five years ago (he had been trying to qualify for the non-para-Olympic portion of the 2008 Beijing Olympics), and hoping he’d be allowed in. He did qualify for London, but unfortunately, his dreams of winning gold were dashed. He really seemed like a good guy to root for. Now, at least, it seems his amazing life is about to come crashing down. Too bad.

If Nike did yank the spot, I am glad, and I hope it was done due to the serious nature of the charges against Pistorius, and the message conveyed by the ad. Yes, the “I am the bullet in the chamber” refers both to a sprinter in the blocks about to explode in a race and to the starter’s pistol, and not to guns, per se. Still, in light of the way Pistorius’ girlfriend was murdered, it was at best in bad taste, and at worst, ironically worded.

Good on Nike (if they did it) for removing the ad. In my dream world I’m picturing this exchange between two Nike ad execs:

Ad Guy #1: “Oh wow. Did you see that Oscar Pistorius was arrested for murdering his girlfriend? Do you think we should yank that ‘I am the bullet’ ad?”

Ad Guy #2: “Just Do It”


And that’s going to do it for today. Hey! It’s NBA All Star Weekend, so there’s lot of stuff happening at that event. I might even watch some of the contests and shit. No, really. And I’ll have a look at the unis AND…the most awaited Uni Watch column of the year (almost as popular as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue) — Matt Powers’ annual review of the ASG kicks! Woo-hoo!!!

Every one have a great Saturday, and I will catch you fine folks tomorrow.



Bullet in the Chamber

One For The Road

.. … ..

“One of the big problems I have with Nike is that they constantly appropriate cultural imagery, absent of any context, solely to move product. They rarely get called on it. (The LeBron as Christ billboard that graced Cleveland for many years is one example. Calling a pair of women’s sneakers ‘Incubus’ is another, one of the rare times the Swoosh got tripped up.) Another 50 or 60 years, and you’ll probably get away with Third Reich sportswear.”
–Cort McMurray

Comments (74)

    Would it be appropriate for the Blackhawks to have an Illini song performed during games?

    Probably not, as Makataimeshekiakiak (known in English as Black Hawk) was a member of the Sauk nation, not the Illini.

    Thank you for knowing part of the origin of the Blackhawks’ team name. The owner named them so after his division in World War I that nicknamed themselves the Black Hawks in honor of the Chief that sided with the British in the War of 1812. Key word(s) “in honor of” showing there was no offense intended by the US military (which still uses the moniker for helicopters) and the owner of the new hockey team in 1926.

    Just to head off any “America fuck yeah!” dismissal of Caleb’s excellent article and the questions he raises as being about a foreign country so who cares, it’s worth pointing out that just about every ranking of freedom and personal liberty puts New Zealand well ahead of the United States. Including the conservative Heritage Foundation’s annual ranking of global economic freedom, which ranks New Zealand 4 and the USA 10.

    One thing I’ve always liked about the New Zealand music, movies, novels, and sports I’ve been exposed to is that native culture permeates everything. It’s not just England in the South Pacific; there’s a widespread cultural give-and-take between the settler and native societies. Maybe not to the extent that African and enslaved culture is present in wider American culture, but certainly much more than Native American cultures impact our wider society. Ours would be a richer culture if indigenous arts and values were more widely present than pro sports caricatures and dusty museum displays.

    Excellent work, Caleb! If there’s ever the ability to see the All Blacks play on TV, part of me tunes in just in hope of seeing them perform their haka. But it is worth questioning whether that, much like the imagery used in the US of tomahawks and spears and warpaint, helps to perpetuate any sort of notion of the Maori as a savage and/or war-like people.

    I’d be interested to know if there’s been any studies or surveys of those claiming Maori descent, if it’s a source of pride, or if there are people who are disgusted and appalled by its use–or any other Maori imagery by people of European descent.

    “… Thanks, Caleb. Great piece! Readers? What say you?…”

    I say it’s a wonderful, nuanced piece, and that Caleb is a great asset to UW.

    If a branch out program for all native american named teams gets all the anal retentive PC white liberals (no offense to PL or PH) who have absolutely no connection to the tribes to shut up, then by god, do it.

    I think Caleb’s article presents a great way to resolve this dilemma. Some names may be beyond help, but this should prevent the push for a total ban, which is an ill considered solution in my view.

    Eye-opening piece Caleb. One unfortunate typo…It’s “Erie” tribe…”Eerie” gives it a whole different meaning. This is one case where a typo is more than just a syntax problem.

    Has there ever been a throwback game where both teams wore jerseys for the same team?

    An idea I had was for the MN Wild and Dallas Stars to have a joint North Stars throwback game. Both teams could wear North Stars jerseys (Wild in green and Dallas in white – assuming the game was played in MN).

    In separate games, the SF Giants have thrownback to NY Giants and the NY Mets have as well…perhaps they might try it in the same game.

    Actually, most of the MN teams could do this. There is the Wolves/Lakers connection, and the Twins could team up with either the Rangers or Nationals to do a Senators throwback.

    Please, no more Senators-esque garb for the former Montreal Expos!
    They’ve gotten enough mileage out of DC baseball history.
    Try on this for once, Nationals:


    Didn’t the Milwaukee Brewers recently suit up as the Milwaukee Braves, then play the Atlanta Braves in a home game?

    I remember one game on August 26th 2005 where Atlanta playing in Milwaukee and the Brewers wore 1957 Braves throwbacks, it was quite weird and wonderful at the same time

    Canada has a very large Native and Inuit population as well. Why does the world keep on forgetting this? We also had a past with some rather offensive native sports’ team names, the St. Catharines Tee-Pees comes to mind.

    From that article:
    1954 Memorial Cup

    St. Catharines, still coached by Rudy Pilous, won the right to play for the Cup by defeating the Toronto Marlboros in seven games for the OHA championship, and the Quebec Frontenacs to win the Richardson Trophy as eastern Canadian representatives. The Teepees won the Memorial Cup in 1954 played at Maple Leaf Gardens. They defeated the Edmonton Oil Kings 4 games to 0 with one tie game, in a best-of-seven series.

    That sorta struck me as odd. 4-0 with 1 tie in a seven game series? How does that work? If, after 7 games, it’s 3-3-1,would they play an 8th game? For that matter, has any other league allowed ties in post season play? I would think that when a championship is on the line, that some sort of “we must have a winner” rule would be used.

    If it’s 3-3-1, there would be an eighth game.

    If it’s 3-2-2, the team who has won three would win the series.

    The World Series has twice had games go into the books as ties due to being called for darkness. The results were ignored–they continued playing games until somebody won 4–but the statistics from the tied games counted.

    This can’t happen under current rules, as a postseason game that is called off mid-game for any reason is suspended and completed later.

    Starting pistols don’t fire bullets so the “bullet in the chamber” must refer to an actual firearm.

    Excellent point. I’m not sure if early starter pistols did fire bullets, but certainly they’ve been firing blanks for ages (so they’d merely ‘fire’ a puff of smoke and in some cases, sealed off altogether, so as to merely make a big bang) — and now they don’t even use ‘pistols’ at all…it’s an electronic gun hooked up to a mike — in theory for fairness (speed of sound and all that).

    Still, I can’t but think the “ad” is a play on words (however unfortunate that may now be) or be an allusion to the runner himself (bullet) in the blocks (chamber).

    Actually Jeff, can I call you Jeff? I’m just gonna call you Jeff, I think the BK one was a case of one thing kinda looking like the other when oriented incorrectly. The Nike logo is supposed to be horizontal, it seems to me a Nike designer saw the Arabic thought it looked cool and then worked around it b/c they were lazy. Honestly the Arabic looks like a deconstructed picture of a woman with tats on her ta-ta’s but that probably says more about where my mind is at

    Good catch — but in this case, I was just quoting a commenter.

    Does go to show you how often we tend to lump the faux pas of a certain shoe manufacturer in one giant ‘sin bin’ when in fact it is a competitor who is guilty.

    Well Phil it’s one of those things where the number one company/brand gets blamed for all the ills of a particular industry. Kinda like in the 1990’s & early 2000’s when people decried the nutritional value of QSR’s and focused on Mickey D’s, which lead to “healthier” options there, meanwhile BK and others were free to peddle things that were just as bad and not get the heat b/c they weren’t #1.

    Thanks for the correction. I was the commenter, and I was writing off the top of my head. As always, the sharp eyes and keen memories of others cleaned things up for me.

    Just to join in the chorus of praise for Caleb, great article man. I enjoyed it so much simply for the different perspective and seeing the way another culture handles a similar problem/issue.

    Well… you can do them in MSPaint if you really wanted to, though it’s rather limited. The best freeware program is probably GIMP – link , but it does take some getting used to.

    As for templates, just do a google image search for “(sport) uniform template”, it should give you something usable in the first few pages.

    Excellent article by Caleb.

    Just as a FYI, FSU does have a course available for students called “History of the Seminoles and Southeastern Tribes, Pre-Contact to Present.” While not required by the University, like say Freshman Orientation 101 – it is cool to see that they at least are offering a class on the Seminole people.


    FWIW, calling Osceola the “guy in a headdress throwing a javelin” gives Florida State far too little credit. The student portraying Osceola (who is a symbol, not a mascot) is garbed in authentic Seminole clothing made every year by members of the tribe. While FSU does not mandate a class to help students understand the connection to the tribe, as has been mentioned above, they do take as many steps as possible to ensure that Seminole culture is treated with the respect it deserves. They may not be the only school that has an arrangement with a Native American tribe but I don’t think any of the others do quite as much as FSU does.

    Sensational work by Caleb. Although I’m not a rugby fan, I’ve traveled twice in New Zealand and have a strong interest in the country’s history and the Maori issue. Good stuff — I’m proud to have this on the site.

    Prior to today my general knowledge of the Maori was limited to reading “Moby Dick” in 10th grade:

    “But what is worship? To do the will of God-that is worship. And what is the will of God? To do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me-that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man.”

    My viewpoint supporting the use of Native American imagery/terminology in US sports hasn’t changed today (for me there’s many areas which are beyond comparison and specific only to the American experience), but Caleb’s guest spot was powerful enough to compel me to reconsider the arguments, made both emotionally and dispassionately, of opponents.

    Some say UW is telling folks what or how to think when in reality it encourages thought and expression thereof, which is why I enjoy frequenting this site.

    “Some say UW is telling folks what or how to think when in reality it encourages thought and expression thereof, which is why I enjoy frequenting this site.”


    Thanks, Chris. I think too often the conversation (and perhaps I have been guilty of this) seems cloaked in “right” vs. “wrong” or that other (opposing) viewpoints may not be welcome — that’s not the case, but our comments sometimes devolve into, if not a shouting match, certainly a pissing contest. People have their views and opinions, and these become hardened and entrenched, and any softening is viewed not as “compromise” or “enlightened thinking,” but of weakness.

    Which is similarly a microcosm of many events (just look at Congress) in American society today.

    We need to engage in a healthy and productive dialog on topics like this (and if the comments today are any indication, we’re well on our way). Balanced views and counterpoints are necessary to any argument. Articles such as this (and I, too, am extremely proud to have Caleb’s article on the site) really can go a long way towards fostering a spirit of oneness with the uni-verse. We’re all here (or at least I think we are) for the same reason. Let’s continue forward to weigh all viewpoints and positions and to consciously avoid drawing a proverbial line in the sand when it comes to issues such as this.


    The one instance Maori imagery has clearly been hijacked in sports uniforms is on Mike Tyson’s face.

    I’m a native person, so I find the nicknames Redskins and Indians to be racist and demeaning.

    Chiefs on the other hand, I find acceptable. It’s on par with Vikings or Cowboys as a part of a race, not encompassing an entire race.

    I’m also cool with Blackhawks, Warriors, and Braves.

    I mean think about, if teams were named Whiteys or Blackskins, wouldn’t there also be an uproar?

    That’s something that I’ve discussed before. Names like “Chiefs” and “Braves” may be stereotypical, but “Redskins” is far worse because it’s a slur.

    As a Blackhawks fan, I will never give up our name or logo, which makes me somewhat hypocritical on this matter, but I do believe that the Redskins need to change their name.

    Great work by Caleb! Over the last couple of weeks particularly, there have been a lot of articles written posing questions and/or chastising the use of Native imagery. Some of the pieces I found to have flaws (i.e. two professionals writers saying that Robert Griffin III was the “only” one that could get Dan Snyder to change the team name. A point refuted by a blog post linked here yesterday) even if I agreed with the general message of it. Caleb’s writing today, I thought, was just as good as some of the more high profile articles and easily just as thought provoking.

    As such, it does bring up a question that pops up in my head every now and then. If colleges and high schools (with their more limited funds) can work with native tribes in this country to put forth names and images that are more respectful (and accurate I would presume), why don’t more pro teams (beyond the Chicago Blackhawks as one poster pointed out yesterday) do the same? Granted, I know that ownership wants to hold on to as much profit as they can, but shouldn’t it be easy for them to see this from another perspective? Even from the most cynical view, it could be seen as a PR move to consult with a local tribe(s) to make sure that their Native American portrayals are more agreeable as well as perhaps supporting sports leagues in the Native American community. Pro teams do a lot of work in their communities, so this would merely add to their volunteerism. And for the money bleeders within the organizations, I’m sure they could find a way of getting a tax write-off for fixing up fields, supplying kids new uniforms, etc. in the Native American community. Also, we often talk here of teams rebranding themselves. Couldn’t it get through the collective thick skulls to involve the local Native American community for their insight in images and team names when a team decides to crank out new jerseys and other merchandise? I feel like some of the pro teams in question are o.k. with making money off of the production of new merchandise but don’t care for the input of the very people they are depicting when making that new merch. Why does that have to be mutually exclusive?

    Well said James!

    I just commented above (to ChrisH) with some thoughts which are also apropos in response to your well-reasoned post.

    Rather than (as a microcosm of society at large) devolving into “us” vs. “them” type rigidity, I’m sure we (as Uni Watchers) could likely come to some form of agreement (a/k/a compromise, a word which is now apparently a synonym for “weakness” or “a repudiation of core beliefs”) via constructive dialog, then we’d be well on the way towards addressing an issue which is clearly coming to a head. Strong views (on both sides) don’t necessarily have to be the “only” views (or choices).

    Dialog is healthy. I’m glad we’re engaging in it.

    In the mockumentary “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America”, which is a parody of Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary and depicts a word where the South won the civil war and annexed the North and slavery continued into the 21st century, they mention the (all-white) Confederate equivalent of the NFL, and the first championship game (the equivalent of the Super Bowl). It features two teams called the Washington In’juns and the New York Niggers.

    Keep in mind that the film is not intended to be a serious analysis of what would happen if the South won the Civil War – rather, it is designed as a commentary on racism in the USA today. There are parallels between several concepts mentioned in the film and real-world counterparts, including many “commercials” interrupting the documentary for racist products that actually existed at one point in real life, as well as for television shows with African-American characters depicted in stereotypical ways.

    The New York Niggers football team is another example. “Niggers” is as offensive to African-Americans as “Redskins” is to Native Americans. “In’juns” is somewhat offensive in today’s age as well, but it used to be a normal way of saying “Indians”, and it is implied elsewhere in the film that after the South won the Civil War, this language remained – so “In’juns” in their fictitious world is no more offensive than “Indians” in our world.

    On the other hand, we obviously see a team name like New York Niggers as offensive. The point of this name use was to draw parallels to the Washington Redskins nickname, particularly given that none of the players on the Niggers (or in the whole Confederate Football League for that matter) was any race except white, similar to how very few, if any, Native Americans play in the NFL.

    The logos for the In’juns and Niggers are never seen in the film, so we are left wondering how they depict Native Americans and African-Americans. Given the depiction of blacks seen elsewhere in the film, there’s a very good chance the Niggers had a stereotypical Uncle Tom for a logo and/or a real (white) guy in blackface as their mascot.

    When the Boston Braves were re-christened the Redskins in 1933 (while the reasons for the change are many, there’s no evidence that it was done to demean or disparage), there were about 5 players of Indian descent (“Lone Star” Dietz heritage has been put into question since that time)on the roster, assuming that Haskell Indian Nations University only accepted students with Indian descent.

    On the name “Redskins,” I am biased. I have been a life long fan of 40 plus years. And I must be fully convinced of the necessity of this name change before I will feel good about it. If you think I’m slow to this, two factors here. Until they came after your team’s mascot/logo don’t be so quick to jump on the bandwagon. It’s not an easy thing to ponder, and I think if the movement is to advance it will happen much quicker if it becomes a dialog and leaves the right/wrong, you are an idiot and so are you too level that it is currently at. Second, I do not believe it is fair to compare the effect of the N-word to the African American population as the phrase “Redskins” is to native peoples. The often forgotten Annenberg survey 10 years ago showed that only 9% of native Americans found the name offensive. (link) Now this survey has been called into question even though Annenberg is in the business of taking polls. Do we perhaps need more polling research among native peoples on this word before we declare categorically that it is a racist phrase? Language is a fluid and funny thing. By themselves, words have no objective meaning, just what we infer and deduce from them. There is no scientific test for this. Just opinion. Before we move this to “fact,” shouldn’t we be sure we have a sense of all the opinions?

    One more thing – the Style Invitational, the weekly humor contest in the Washington Post, ran a rename the Redskins contest as its first contest ever, almost exactly 20 years ago. (It will be exactly 20 in a couple weeks). The winning entry: “Baltimore Redskins – no, don’t move the team, just change the name and let Baltimore deal with it.”

    Sorry for the third consecutive post – I’m writing an article about Native American nicknames for my campus newspaper. I will send in the link when it runs.

    Hi, I was so wondering if anyone had a link to a YouTube video, article, or past UW article, about how to make jerseys in illustrator or photoshop, similar to the Blackhawks jersey posted today but for all sports. I want to give it a shot. Thanks!

    That’s my Blackhawks jersey.

    I took a template from link (which I now write for) and combined it with logos taken from Wikipedia and elsewhere using a combination of MSPaint and GIMP.

    To suggest that these issues are not “about uniforms” is absurd on its face. It’s also reductive and limiting. If you have a narrow or specific concept of what “about uniforms” means, that’s your prerogative. But many of us have a more expansive concept of what it means, and we’ll continue to explore issues that pertain to that concept.

    Hate to burst your bubble, Johnny, but no, that’s not real. It’s been around since the BCS game against Auburn a few years ago, in fact. First clue? Bellotti Bold font, which they haven’t worn for over a year.

    And compared to the drab, olive green they wore a bunch of times this year, that almost looks better.


    Been traveling all day and just now got to check the site. Overwhelmed by the positive response. My hope was to encourage new ideas and conversation, sans the name calling. Feel like that has happened.

    Also my apologies on Native American ignorance on my part. I really was shooting in the dark on some of that stuff, so thanks for the corrections.

    It was one of the most interesting pieces to grace UW, and that’s saying something! Really interesting, and very, very well done!

    Caleb’s piece is well-done and thought-provoking. As far as professional teams making overtures to the indigenous peoples of America, it can’t happen soon enough. I have trouble imagining it hasn’t happened already, but nothing surprises me any more. Since I have no knowledge of such a give-and-take between teams and tribes, I can’t presume to imagine what type of conversation would occur.

    I maybe SUPER late on this entry but I am also a New Zealander and can answer quite a few questions about the Haka and other Maori Q’s that may not have already been answered.

    For the person that asked about the Haka I can tell you it is a HUGE thing of pride and is never viewed in a poor light excpet for the main haka performed by the All Blacks is disliked by a southern tribe because it was written and performed by a man who lead one tribe that slaughtered the others in the area. It was first done by the All Blacks in 1905 and after mainly white people did it the haka was turning into a joke until the 80’s when Buck Shelford took the role of captain and made it what it is today and now everybody does them everywhere when sports is involved. Only team that doesn’t do it is the All Whites.

    Funnily enough I play on a softball team that mainly consist of Maori players and we call ourselves ‘The Chiefs’ and our team logo is a Native American chief in head dress. The team below us is known as ‘The Indians’ and their logo is a similar look

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