I know this is a hockey site, but most of my readers are in the Ottawa area, so I feel I can weigh in on the fiasco that is the naming of new sports franchises. This is a city that had the same name for a football team as another franchise in a 9 team league – The rough Riders. It seems that Ottawa teams have a hard time getting a name right, if you aren’t the Senators.
Starting off, Ottawa’s new National Basketball League franchise unveiled its name and logo yesterday, the Ottawa TomaHawks. While many people were caught by surprise that Ottawa was getting a NBL team, or the fact that there was an NBL to begin with, the reaction to the announcement of the name was immediate, and not good.
My first reaction was one of disbelief. The first thing I thought of was the Atlanta Braves and the “tomahawk chop” that essentially started a whirlwind of controversy by Native American rights groups that then extended to the likes of the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Chiefs and Florida State Seminoles among many others.
Who in their right mind would think anything remotely related in any way to the First Nations people of North America would be accepted or at the very least that it would go unscrutinized in the public spotlight? With a plethora of animals, weather conditions, identifying landmarks or any other number of names they could have chosen, what was the owner thinking?
I am not coming out one way or another on the name. I am not a Native American so it doesn’t affect me personally one way or another. But why would a brand new franchise that will be struggling to get off the ground in a hockey market even let that idea come to light. Also, why did the league not step in and suggest that they go in a different direction and not push that kind of envelope because this also looks bad on a fledgling league that is looking for legitimacy.
The co-owner, Gus Takkale, stated that he spoke to aboriginal groups about the name before hand and got no objection. However, I guess he didn’t speak to everyone, and the outcry was so immediate that within 5 hours, they announced that they were withdrawing the name and will re-launch the franchise with a new name and logo in the near future.
Whether the name qualifies as racist or not, is not for me to say. What boggles my mind is that in the process, nobody stopped to think, “is this really a good idea?”. My first reaction to it told me that it wasn’t, and I can’t believe nobody involved with the planning thought the same, whether it was referring to a type of dunk or a type of weapon used by people of the First Nations.
OTTAWA FURY FC
That controversy overshadowed the announcement of another new Ottawa professional sports franchise, the North American Soccer League club that will play at the rebuilt Lansdowne Park starting next Spring. After much speculation over the fact that the co-owner of the franchise also owns the Ottawa Fury soccer club, to nobody’s surprise the new franchise was unveiled as the Ottawa Fur FC. Again, no to nitpick, but why add the ‘FC’? It just seems like it is trying to piggyback off of the Toronto FC soccer team which, by the way, has been dreadful for years in MLS play, despite playing in front of large crowds.
The name isn’t bad, but the drama surrounding it was too much. The owner seemed to be playing games with the media on Twitter about the name, but in the end nobody was surprised and it was kind of anti-climactic.
And it won’t stop there, because within a couple of months the new CFL franchise will be officially named, and all signs are pointing to the Ottawa RedBlacks as the moniker the team will be known by. Fan sentiment seems to be on the fence over the name, people either love it or hate it. I know that it is inconventional, and in a very conservative city that might not be the best course of action. That remains to be seen, but rest assured Jeff Hunt and his group won’t go anywhere near stirring up the level of controversy created by the TomaHawks.