Color me shocked, shocked that getting rid of Chief Wahoo didn’t appease revolutionary iconoclasts. ESPN’s Max Kellerman takes a victory lap after MLB “convinced” the Cleveland Indians to get rid of its controversial logo after the 2018 season, and then argues that it’s time to tackle another symbol of bigotry and oppression. And that means putting the crosshairs on yet another mascot for … Notre Dame?
During a debate Tuesday over the Cleveland Indian’s recent decision to drop their “Chief Wahoo” logo, ESPN “First Take” host Max Kellerman argued the Notre Dame Fighting Irish mascot is offensive as well. …
He continued to argue that ethnic mascots should be changed “even if it is a minority of the group that is offended,” and said that rule also should apply to the University of Notre Dame, whose athletic teams are known as the Fighting Irish.
“Many Irish-Americans are not offended, but many are. And should that also change? The answer is yes, unequivocally yes,” Kellerman said, as his guest Will Cain groaned and facepalmed.
Many Irish-Americans are offended by Notre Dame’s choice of mascot and team name? That’s news to this American of Irish descent (fourth generation), who loves Notre Dame football, the logo, and the name. I can’t speak for all those of Irish descent or even claim to be representative, but I’d bet I have at least as good a claim on either as Max Kellerman. Frankly, it never occurred to me to be offended by it, but now that Kellerman has suggested that it’s a bigoted attack on my heritage, I’m … still not in the least bit offended.
However, I do feel better about one thing. I’m finally part of an oppressed segment of American society that qualifies me to receive paternalistic lectures from sports announcers who want to reorder the world … “for my benefit.” Wahoo! (Oh, wait …)
So by what bigoted series of events did the University of Notre Dame du Lac (its full Francophile name, meaning “Our Lady of the Lake”) come to adopt the nickname “Fighting Irish” and its leprechaun logo? There are a number of theories about this, actually, as the team used several different names. Under legendary coach Knute Rockne in the 1920s, the football team got called the Rovers, the Ramblers, and the Terriers, at different times. One version of the history has the name sticking as a tribute to Éamon de Valera after his visit to the campus in 1919, which hardly sounds like an insult to the Irish.
Another legend ties it to a massive battle between Notre Dame students against the Ku Klux Klan in 1924:
For those of you who don't know, Notre Dame calls their teams the Fighting Irish because, in 1924, Notre Dame students pummeled anti-Catholic Klansmen who were coming to South Bend to inform them that Catholics weren't welcome. https://t.co/hJglm4AhqT
— Bobby P (@Panzenbeck) January 30, 2018
Sounds like the Fighting Irish intended to fight against bigotry, only in this case real bigotry. Three years later, the school officially embraced the name:
A little-known event occurring in 1924 may have inadvertently contributed to Fighting Irish lore. In a recent book, alumnus Todd Tucker describes how Notre Dame students violently clashed with the anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan in that year. A weekend of riots drove the Klan out of South Bend and helped bring an end to its rising power in Indiana at a time when the state’s governor was among its members.
Finally in 1927, university president Rev. Matthew Walsh, C.S.C., decided that the “Fighting Irish” was preferable to the school’s more derisive nicknames. He said in a statement, “The university authorities are in no way averse to the name ‘Fighting Irish’ as applied to our athletic teams… I sincerely hope that we may always be worthy of the ideal embodied in the term ‘Fighting Irish.’”
What an insult to my heritage! Er … naah. Neither is the logo itself. I’ve seen much worse depictions of leprechauns:
This, by the way, offended me not at all. Life is too short to live under a constant series of paranoid assumptions that use of cultural references amounts to (a) theft and (b) ridicule under all circumstances.
This goes beyond silly. It speaks to a destructive edge in our culture, in which offense given to a few means silencing for the many. Even if getting rid of Chief Wahoo and the Redskins nickname are reasonable issues for criticism and debate, it won’t end with those. Indeed, concessions in that direction appear to have emboldened the iconoclasts to strip the public square bare of all touchstones save for those approved by the whimsical nature of the iconoclasts themselves, most of whom appear to be as ill-informed as Max Kellerman.
Be sure to watch the exchange for Will Cain’s perfect execution of the facepalm. I give him 10 out of 10 for that move. How did the move’s past master, Stephen A. Smith, let that go unanswered?