The Washington Redskins, Crusader Football and the Windsor Swastikas

The names of sports teams have been in the news a lot lately.  While the Florida State Seminoles, Chicago Indians, and Atlanta Braves—and dozens of other teams in pro, college and high school sports—are in the midst of examining their team names as it becomes clear that strong feelings are elicited by such names, it is the Washington Redskins which have gotten the most attention.  After much deliberation, they have chosen to by extra time by going with The Washington Football Team, for now. 

Some roll their eyes and ask what is the big deal? It is only the name of a team, and it has been around for so many years?

Consider this:  I was teaching a student about the recent Tisha B’av commemoration on the Jewish calendar, where we remember sad and tragic events in Jewish history, including the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.  Other events which happened on or around Tisha B’av include the First Crusade in 1096, where 10,000 Jews in France and the Rhineland were killed and communities destroyed as Crusaders marched through Jewish communities between 1096 and 1271 when Christian Crusaders marched to Jerusalem to recover the Holy Land from Islamic rule.  I informed my horrified student that, until today, many sports teams, especially at Catholic schools, are known as The Crusaders.

“Crusaders” high school football is ‘a Christ-centered, athlete-focused, Division VII competitive football program with experienced coaches and state-of-the-art training programs and facilities. Players benefit from one-on-one instruction and opportunities to play early and often throughout their high school careers. Crusader coaches focus on preparing players for college-level football with the newest techniques and up-tempo offensive schemes. Crusaders compete against top high school and prep school teams throughout Ohio and the surrounding Midwest.”  And Crusaders FC is a semi-professional Northern Irish football club from Belfast, founded in 1898.  Perhaps Crusader teams and leagues should consider a name change.

Sometimes names seem innocent at one moment.  Then something happens and it no longer seems right to keep the name.  Thanks to Peter Sagal, host of the weekly podcast “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me,” the August 1st podcast taught me about a sports team I had never heard of before:  The Windsor Swastikas!  Please don’t confuse this Canadian ice hockey team from Windsor, Nova Scotia with the Fernie Swastikas, who played across the very large country in British Columbia!  How, you may ask, do they get away with a name like that?  For one, they played from 1905–1916, when the swastika was a symbol associated with luck and success.   That all changed with Hitler and Nazi Germany.   The association was no longer with “luck and success.”  In fact, in 2005, according to a BBC article, “German politicians have called for Nazi symbols to be banned throughout Europe after Prince Harry was pictured wearing a swastika to a fancy dress party.”

Just goes to show that it sometimes does become necessary for teams to change their names.  It is worth it.  We live with the changes and move on!

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