By Phil Hecken
As we continue to discuss the use of Native American iconography, names and logos on Uni Watch, I’ve attempted to include different voices in the discussion. Last weekend, we were treated to a fantastic piece by Caleb Borchers, who explored the relationship between a New Zealand rugby team and the native peoples, and a second, sub-article, by Anil Adyanthaya, which explored the relationship between the NCAA and schools using native imagery/names (which had been published in The Boston Globe in 2005).
Subsequent to that (and unbeknownst to me as of last weekend), Paul had an outstanding interview with Saginaw Chippewas public relations director Frank Cloutier, which appeared on ESPN, which took a look at the Chippewa tribe’s symbiotic relationship with the CMU Chippewas, a school in Michigan which not only uses native iconography, but does so with the blessing of the tribe from whom they derive their nickname.
The comments’ section from those three days had some really excellent back and forth, with even the most ardent of us on either side of the issue giving pause, and genuinely discussing ways to address the issue of the use of Native American naming and logo use at the college and pro levels. One of those who has commented is Walter Helfer (whom I was privileged to meet at a Uni Watch gathering back in October of 2010, and who has contributed several excellently drawn uni concepts over the years). Since Walter raised some cogent points in his comments, I asked him if he’d like to write an op-ed for Uni Watch on one issue on which he has strong feelings — and one on which he really has some sound thoughts and suggestions.
So without further ado, here’s Walter and his thoughts on …
Native American Iconography
By Walter Helfer
I’m not an authority figure. Take everything I say with a grain of salt. I’m not one of these guys who says, “Some of my best friends are ______ people.” I don’t even know any Native Americans.
I’ll cop to being sympathetic to American Indians; that wasn’t always the case. As a teenager I thought they were just one more bitchy special-interest group with entitlement issues. But I was taught the realities of General Custer, The Trail of Tears, the smallpox-infested blankets. White men took the swastika from them and made it a symbol of murder, hate and cruelty. They have received the short end of the stick again and again. It must be grotesque and alienating to be used as a sports mascot.
But I’m afraid indigenous Americans are on shakier footing when they want to restrict the use of sacred symbols. This is less an extensively-researched position than an impression created from years of researching Native American art. Indian artifacts such as arrowheads, tribal drums, eagle feathers and tomahawks are dynamic and multi-purposed. I worry it’s somewhat disingenuous to maintain these elegant objects don’t also have more prosaic duties. The very word “symbol” connotes more than one meaning.
The thunderbird, a favorite of mine, anthropomorphizes the power and mystery of violent weather. Ford Motor Company knew this. Ford realized that cars are themselves mythical, promising escape and independence. A chrome-y, finny convertible is more fit to the talismanic qualities suggested by a supernatural, taloned bird than a dowdy station car. Tribal drums have a role in spiritual ceremonies, but also represent communication, urgency and strength. The tomahawk, with its sharpness, balance and craftwork, is an avatar of expediency and athletic prowess.
The influence of Native American lore reaches farther than the people themselves. By dint of disseminating this information through folklore and education, it becomes a human perception, not exclusively an Indian one. An effort to claim the thunderbird, or tomahawk, would be equivalent to Christians trying to copyright the cross. The intellectual argument would be undercut by the pervasiveness of cross images in everyday life.
But I only represent myself. I can’t prove this with facts. It’s a gut feeling that some usage is beyond our control. If the images are used with respect, indigenous Americans would be imposing on the rest of us if they claimed they weren’t ours to use. It’s true they have justification; we’ve earned their mistrust, but an inclusive solution is better than a divisive one.
As time has progressed, I have thought about the use by non-Native Peoples of their iconography — particularly when it (at least appears) to be treated either reverentially or at least respectfully. There are numerous examples, but one which has always stood out to me is the use of native imagery by the Seattle Seahawks. From their inception to the present (and even moreso now), the Seahawks have made use of native imagery. According to the Seahawks, Todd Van Horne, who designed the new Seahawks uniforms, got his inspiration from “a totem, in general; and the thunderbird prominently displayed on many Pacific Northwest totems, specifically.” Read the full writeup here.
But the Seahawks had been using Native American totems for their inspiration from their inception. Perhaps the best historical perspective of the original logo was penned by none other than UW stalwart (and original Duck Tracker) Mike Princip. It’s worth a read to see how this original design came about. I certainly can’t think the Seahawks have been anything but respectful in their treatment of this imagery. Do non-native peoples have the right to use these logos and images (at least without some sort of agreement or proper compensation to those from whom they have been ‘borrowed’)? Isn’t their use, so long as it is tastefully and respectfully done, as much a tribute to those cultures as it is an appropriation?
Still More Voices…
…on the Washington Football team.
Earlier this week, UW reader Gregory Koch mentioned that he and a fellow student from the University of Connecticut would be writing opposing view articles for their school paper, The Daily Campus, with Greg taking the view that “Names like ‘Redskins’ are offsensive to all parties involved,”, while his sparring partner, Anthony Naples, opines that “Politically correct debates have no place with sports teams.” Each of these articles comes with a poll (feel free to vote).
Please give each a read — while they may rehash some of the debates we’ve already had on the issue of renaming the Washington Football team, they still present two more (in this case, opposing) views on the matter.
Thanks to Gregory for his interest in this matter and for sharing the articles.
So the Golden State Warriors broke out their new ‘short sleeved uniforms’ against the San Antonio Spurs last evening. I have to admit, I was intrigued, and I ended up watching
more than a half of the game the whole game, including the OT. And, unlike the Twitterverse, which I understand was brutal, I liked what I saw.
From a distance, I will admit, the game looked a bit like a college game — but that’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It was impossible to notice the different material that separates (attaches?) the sleeve to the shoulder. It looked, for all intents and purposes, like a one-piece top, or a tee shirt. Actually, it looked more like a warm-up top or shooting shirt than a basketball jersey. But that’s OK. I like the look. I may be the only one.
On the court, the unis looked good, especially from a distance. Up close, I was not a fan of the striped pants (which I hate to begin with, for a basketball uniform) paired with the plain top. And I didn’t particularly like the white-blue-white striping, which appeared to end up at the bottom of the pants in a feather motif (which could have something to do with their past — or not). Up close — they really looked mismatched. However, from the comfort of a full-screen TV shot, they looked great. Here are some game pics (click on each to enlarge):
Of course, the uniforms may be short-lived, since the Warriors offense appeared to disappear with the new outfits. Public outcry may demand they never be worn again. But are these the next-new-thing or a one-and-done? If you believe the adidas hype-machine, the uniforms “look similar to the new generation of workout gear, which features a lighter material that helps absorb moisture. The alternate short-sleeved uniform the Warriors will wear is made of a material that is 26% lighter than the current tank-top jerseys.” Uh huh. I happened to like the look (but then again, I love the Warriors gold uni and I’ll admit I’m a sucker for the Copperplate Gothic Bold font). And the GSW logo is one of the best in the NBA.
Now, do I want every team to adopt this new uni look? Hell no, but I liked it on the Warriors, and I’d like to see it again. I have a feeling we will, but I fear other teams will adopt this look to
move more merch appease adidas, and it will become just another gimmick. But for now, I like it. You can check out a ton more game pics here.
Readers? What say you?
My Name is Earl…
Just one other bit of uni news came out yesterday — the Orioles have come up with a patch honoring the late Earl Weaver. That article doesn’t mention where on the jersey the patch will be worn (I’m thinking the chest, since most of the space on the sleeves are spoken for). It’s not a bad patch, as patches go:
Simple and classic, but I’m not quite sure it needs either the “EARL WEAVER” (like, if you don’t know what the “4” is for, well…) or the “HALL OF FAME.” Sure, Earl’s a HOFer and it’s nice that he’s being recognized as a member, but it seems unnecessary. I’m also wondering if they’ll have an alternate color patch for use on the orange jersey. Seems it will blend, rather than stand out, no?
We have another new set of tweaks, er…concepts today. After discussion with a number of readers, it’s probably more apropos to call most of the reader submissions “concepts” rather than tweaks. So that’s that.
So if you’ve concept for any sport, or just a tweak or wholesale revision, send them my way.
Please do try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per image — if you have three uniform concepts in one image, then obviously, you can go a little over, but no novels, OK? OK!. You guys have usually been good with keeping the descriptions pretty short, and I thank you for that.
Like the colorizations, I’m going to run these as inline pics — click on each one to enlarge.
And so, lets begin:
We begin today with Will Sinnott, who has a “fauxback” for the Super Bowl champs:
1970 Ravens fauxbacks: Stripes at the shoulders & a white helmet a la the Colts. The socks are a nod to the stripes of the old Orioles stirrups. The commemorative patch is my attempt at trying to be clever & get a horseshoe on the uniform via Memorial Stadium’s overhead look.
Next up is Gary Abbot, who sent in to UW a concept for the Brewers Youniform contest:
Hey Paul & Phil,
I’m a bit late to a party I wasn’t invited to (a Canadian couldn’t enter the Brewers youniform contest), but I wanted to share my design with you. It’s my first stab at a uniform design, and besides my novice Photoshop skills, I’m pretty pleased with the logos.
Attached is a PNG with the design. It’s also posted on my blog: gabbott.tumblr.com, where I hope to be putting some more uniform designs in the future. I went for a classic, clean style for the jersey and cap.
The script ‘M’ on the cap is a reference to both the tradition of baseball teams placing the first letter of their team location on the cap and the iconic script logos of the breweries that the team name references.
The ‘B’ keg started as a vertical keg ‘M’, and is another simple way of connecting the team to Milwaukee’s brewing heritage.
As a disclaimer, I have never been to Milwaukee, or Wisconsin for that matter. I did a bit of basic research on the franchise, the city, and the old breweries for this little project.
Would love to hear your thoughts, and keep up the great work with the site! The Cleveland Browns are next… ;)
All the best,
And we close today with Jonah (No Last Name Given) who has some concepts for the two Super Bowl combatants:
Now that we have played this year’s Super Bowl, I decided to tweak both teams uniforms in a way that in my opinion, makes them both nearly perfect. For the 49ers, one of the best dressed teams in the NFL (besides the fact the sleeve stripes get cut off), I decided to change exactly that: the sleeve stripes. Now, the whole stripes are visual, but on the red one, the top and the bottom stripes are gold, instead of white, which makes the stripes the same as the helmets and pants. On the white top, the stripes are a carbon copy of the red jersey, so no more three red stripes, but I think this is better. It’s like the Florida Gators, the stripe on the helmet, jerseys and pants are always the same no matter what.
Now, for the next Harbaugh coached team, the Baltimore Ravens. For them, their jerseys are the best modern jerseys in the league, and this just makes it better. I added a more conventional stripe to both pairs of pants, as well as the helmets. So now, the helmet stripes are the same as the pant stripes, and the black pants are no longer just plain. Well, those are just minor tweaks, but I think they are appropriate. Sorry for the slight sloppiness, but hope you enjoy.
And that’s it for today. Back with more next time.
Because we love the stirrup here at Uni Watch, this section is devoted to those of us who sport the beautiful hose on Fridays — a trend popularized many years ago by Robert P. Marshall, III. For many of us, it’s become a bit of an obsession, but a harmless one — a reflection of our times. Where we once had Friday ties, which has been replaced by Casual Friday — we now have Stirrup Fridays. It’s an endearingly simple concept — no matter where you work (or even if you don’t) — break out a fresh pair of rups to compliment (or clash with) your Friday attire.
The doldrums of winter are still with most of us (at least here in the States), even with Spring Training now underway. But fear not, there are still a dedicated set of ruppers keeping the faith while we await TCK and warmer weather. So, with a smallish set for today … Here we go:
On the road, headed home to Delaware for the weekend. Decided to break out the throwback Braves hose in honor of their first exhibition game today and the start of baseball.
I might be under the weather, but that won’t stop me from wearing these vintage 1920s era stirrups.
Back to the top of the order for Stirrup Friday–just in time for pitchers and catchers. Wearing the classic Orioles look–the first pair that I ordered from Comrade Marshall and still my favorites. Folks were talking about the success that the Orioles had last year after going back to the cartoon bird on their caps. To put it over the top they need to start wearing stirrups/socks in this style again!
I was at the doctor’s office, and was wondering if this pertained to the revolution? Just count me as a loyal stirrup enthusiast.
And that ends today’s look at Stirrup Friday — all of you who participate, send me your pics and a brief (~50 words) description of their relevance, and I’ll run ‘em here on Saturday (and sometimes Sunday too!). Be sure to visit Robert’s House of Hose for news on rups.
And now…here’s …
fellow stirrup comrades
Unfortunately on the front lines of our battle against the pajamist hordes there is nothing but status quo. This is due to production delays as TCK is swamped getting ready for the baseball season. I hope to have some additions by next weekend, but I urge patience leading up to opening day, as much is on the way.
from each, to each,
That will do it for this fine Saturday in February. Thanks to Walter (and Gregory) for the opinions on the native imagery/names, and to the concepters and stirruppers. I will catch you guys tomorrow.
“SportsCenter got in a few good words about the sleeved jerseys after showing the highlights. They invoked the White Sox’s shorts, the Flyers’ and Whalers’ long pants, and the Seahawks’ neon green jerseys.”