What’s in a team’s nickname?
In the case of Washington’s National Football League team, enough perceived offense for the San Francisco Chronicle, Portland Oregonian, Kansas City Star and Slate.com to proclaim that they will no longer print it.
But this newspaper still refers to the Washington Redskins as the Washington Redskins. After all, that is the team’s name.
No offense, though.
Much closer to home, there’s no escaping this offensive contrast between the Clemson Tigers and the South Carolina Gamecocks: The former honors an awe-inspiring wonder of nature, the latter the barbaric “sport” of cockfighting.
Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Even closer to home are the Bishop England High School Battling Bishops.
That oxymoronic nickname miscasts high-ranking Catholic clergy as brawlers rather than peacemakers. The mascot’s logo even shows a diminutive bishop striking a pugnacious pose accented by boxing gloves. And how can the girls’ teams be Bishops when the church doesn’t even allow female priests?
Before the school changed its name in 1991, the Charleston Southern Buccaneers were the Baptist College Buccaneers — another conflicting pairing.
And College of Charleston teams were the Maroons until they became the Cougars in 1970 — a wise shift indeed.
Home of the Braves
Back to overwrought hurt-feelings notions forcing team-name turnovers:
Newberry College, under haughty NCAA pressure, switched from the Indians to the Wolves in 2010.
Among other sensitivity-conscious name changers over the last decade or two:
Stanford University (from Indians to the Cardinal), Miami, Ohio University (from Redskins to Redhawks), Marquette University (from Warriors to Golden Eagles) and St. John’s University (from Redmen to Red Storm), not be confused with the St. John’s High School Islanders of Johns Island.
But neither the Stanford Cardinal nor St. Louis Cardinals names are based on Catholic big shots.
Some high school, college and pro teams have stuck with their Native American-related nicknames, including the Wando Warriors, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Florida State Seminoles, Chicago Blackhawks, Utah Utes, San Diego State Aztecs and North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
From nickname control to gun control to mind control: The NBA’s Washington Bullets became the Washington Wizards in 1997.
Back on offense: How about those Confederacy-inspired Rebels of Ole Miss, Byrnes High (in Duncan, S.C.) and Nathan Bedford Forrest High (in Jacksonville, Fla.)?
Fortunately, there are no John Wilkes Booth High Assassins — or William T. Sherman High Barn Burners.
There are, however, the Abraham Lincoln High School Railsplitters in Brooklyn, N.Y.
And Thursday’s Los Angeles Times reported objections to the Coachella Valley High Arabs. From that story: “At sporting events, a student dressed as the mascot makes an appearance with a woman dressed as a belly dancer performing next to him, and the mascot’s face is featured prominently at the school’s athletic facilities.”
No, the girls’ teams aren’t called the Belly Dancers.
A sobering reminder
Yes, hypersensitivity to nicknames is offensive, too.
Then again, while there’s nothing wrong with the term Notre Dame Fighting Irish, extending the theme to Notre Dame Fighting Drunken Irish would be unnecessary roughness on an endearing tradition.
And while fans and non-fans debate what is and isn’t offensive (and what is and isn’t NFL bullying), all Americans should know that “America’s Team” has the best name:
The Dallas Cowboys.
Both the Dallas and Cowboys sides of that word combination evoke bold, brash, Texas verve, from the rugged cattle drives of yore to the greedy oil-baron excesses of the epic “Dallas” television series that made “Who Shot J.R.?” an international fixation.
The Cowboys, who thumped the Redskins last month, have been in first place in the NFC East all season.
So go Cowboys against New Orleans’ misnamed Saints on Sunday night.
Go CSU Bucs in that huge home game against Coastal Carolina today.
And if you don’t like a team’s nickname, go root for somebody else.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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