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Thorold resident takes to Facebook to spark debate on Blackhawks logo 0

By Jeff Blay, Special to The Standard

Thorold Junior B Blackhawks

Thorold Junior B Blackhawks

THOROLD - 

Is the Thorold Blackhawks logo offensive?

That’s the question Mitch Baird is posing to the public through a recently formed Facebook page.

The Thorold resident takes issue with the team name and caricature used in the logo, depicting a First Nations warrior wearing sacred war paint and regalia. It’s used not only for the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League team, but also for all minor hockey teams in the Thorold Amateur Athletic Association.

“The Black Hawk nation, which is indigenous to the Illinois area of the United States, has nothing to do with Thorold or this area,” Baird said. “The cartoon caricature is offensive and I think team names caricaturizing any ethnic group is bad.

“I also have a problem with the Dennis Morris Redmen, and I think there are Irish people out there who would probably be offended by the (Notre Dame) Fighting Irish. It’s not honouring anybody.”

Baird wants to open the discussion and see if others feel the same.

“I just want to get the conversation going,” he said. “I’m not mad, I’m not angry and I don’t think people are racist, I think they’re misinformed.

“Now the invitation for dialogue is out there and the whole point of these conversations is to present information from a few different sides and see how people feel about it.”

Baird, who has a Mohawk background and is a health worker in the Niagara aboriginal community, started the page on the heels of a recent push to change professional sports logos considered offensive by aboriginal people, such as the NFL’s Washington Redskins and the MLB’s Cleveland Indians.

He raises the point that, unless you can use a team name to reference what it’s named after, it likely shouldn’t be used.

“Is a Falcon going to be offended if I call it a Falcon?” Baird asked, referring to the St. Catharines Falcons. “No. But would you walk into the Niagara Regional Native Centre and start calling people Blackhawks?

“If you’re not going to call someone that to their face, you probably shouldn’t name your team after it.”

The Thorold Blackhawks name and logo was first adopted by the junior team in 1982, when it entered the Golden Horseshoe Junior B League after previously being a junior C team called the Thorold Paper C’s.

Current owners Ralph Sacco and Tony Gigliotti, who just took over ownership of the team this past spring, said the issue has yet to be brought to their attention and, being new to the organization, refrained from further comment at this time.

The TAAA started using the Blackhawks name and logo for its minor hockey teams a decade ago, taking after the junior team.

Gene Citrigno, president of the association, also said he hasn’t been made aware of the issue, but the association would be willing to address it.

“We haven’t heard anything,” he said. “But if anyone wants to come and see us, we’re open to talking about it and seeing if we can find a solution.”

As of Friday afternoon, a day after Baird started the Facebook page, it had 35 likes and has already generated some feedback.

Ngo-madaas Paradis, a Thorold resident who’s studying Adult Aboriginal Education/Aboriginal Studies at Brock University, was one to express he finds the logo offensive.

And he’s grown up cheering for his hometown Thorold Blackhawks.

“I’ve always supported the Blackhawks and I love the team, but the logo has always been a touchy subject with me,” said Paradis, whose ancestry is Anishinaabe-Metis. “I’ve never really been comfortable sporting anything with that image on it just because of the depiction of that Disney, Hollywood, fierce-faced stereotypical Cheyenne Brave. And we’re a people, not a mascot.”

But Paradis made it clear he’s never thought those who picked the name and logo had any intention of offending anyone.

“I just don’t think people are at that level of education on aboriginal issues in North America,” he said. “That’s why I think it’s important that we start the conversation and work towards a better understanding of these issues.”

To join the discussion, like the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ThoroldBlackhawksLogoOffensive

jeff.blay@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @JeffBlay

Facebook: Thorold Niagara News

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