Jewish World Review May 19, 2002 / 8 Sivan, 5762

Greg Crosby

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Ethnic cleansing -- California style | It seems there are people who have nothing better to do but search out the most benign, innocent elements of society and turn them into yet another reason to pass more laws. With all the really bad stuff going on in the world it's amazing what people can find to get upset about. Like team mascots, for example.

I got off to a very bad start in life. You see, I went to school at John Burroughs High, whose mascot was an Indian -- OOPS! Very, very politically incorrect by today's standards. No wonder I'm such a mess -- not to mention everybody else who attended Burroughs. But the Burroughs Indians were the name of our sports teams and, in our insensitive ignorance, we were actually proud of them, as we were the name. "Go Indians, go" we'd shout. Well, it looks like the Indians are really going to go -- for good.

In a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg and approved Wednesday in its last committee test before going to a vote in the Assembly, California could become the first state in America to ban all public schools from using American Indian (and possibly other ethnic) names for use as teams and mascots. The Burroughs Indians would bite the dust. Any teams called Redskins, Apaches, Chiefs, and Braves would be outlawed, as well as any other American Indian tribal name.

Commenting in The Atlanta Journal Constitution, David Yeagley, a Comanche and adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma, said, "There are 11 states with Indian names, and endless streets, rivers, towns and counties that have Indian names. Are they going to remove that, too? Where does this ethnic cleansing end?" Indeed.

But that's not all. Under the California bill, a state commission would add to the banned list any other names it decides are "derogatory or discriminatory against any race, ethnicity, nationality or tribal group." That might include names such as Saxons, Normans, Vikings, Highlanders, and Celtics. Schools with names deemed to be unacceptable by the board would be forced to comply.

Meanwhile, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is at it again. They're pushing a Minnesota high school to change its team name, the Packers, to something less offensive. The reason? They consider "packers" to be a euphemism for slaughterhouse workers. For years they've been trying to get the Green Bay Packers to change its name to the "Six Packers" for the same reason.

Think about all the team names that might offend someone and you'd have to rename more than half the sports teams in the country. Consider this short list:

The Aztecs -- offensive to people of Central Mexican heritage.

The Padres -- offensive to the Catholic Church. Also exclusionary to those who are not Christians.

Giants -- offensive to people of large size.

Crusaders -- offensive to Islamics.

Cowboys -- offensive to Indians

Brewers -- promotes using alcohol

And any team that uses an animal's name and /or likeness is guilty of denigrating and cheapening the animal's dignity and exploiting that particular animal for profit.

So if we eliminate references to ethnic origins and animals, what does that leave us?

Teams named after articles of clothing like the White Sox. We might expand on that theme, I suppose. The Green Hats. The Red Shirts. The Brown Pants. The Soft Shoes. Then we could explore using letters and numbers. The Burroughs High Indians becomes the Burroughs High Fives. San Diego State University Double U's. The UCLA Size Nines.

Flower names are still okay, I think. And fruits and vegetables should be fine. The Los Angeles Oranges might work. Nortre Dame could be The Fighting Irises. The Dallas Day Lilies has a nice ring to it. The San Francisco Pansies is a non-offensive name. No, wait. Come to think of it, better change that flower -- or move the team to another city.

JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2001 Greg Crosby