What’s in a name? A lot

There are two reasons for commenting again on team mascots and names: The Gospel for the fourth Sunday of Easter (May 11), and the May 20 Associated Press article about disrespectful T-shirts using a caricature of the old University of North Dakota Indian head logo.

One translation of the particular Gospel (John 10:1-10) used the term “marauders” in referring to those who steal and rob rather enter the sheepfold by way of Jesus the good shepherd or Jesus the gate. Marauders are thus the antithesis of Christ’s way; they could even be called antichrists.

Each time I read “marauders” it was like a buzzer going off indicating this was hardly appropriate for teams of the University of Mary, a Christian institution. It seems time for U Mary to retire this name and select one more suitable.

As for the T-shirts emblazoned with the logo and the words, “Siouxper Drunk,” they were not part of any official UND function. Yet they show that racism is not dead and that it is time to adopt a new school nickname.

And as I suggested years ago in a Bismarck Tribune column, there is a very appropriate name available, highlighting a nationally known program within the university, the School of Aerospace Sciences: Flyers, or Fighting Flyers.

That this name also suggests the Philadelphia National Hockey League team adds to its appropriateness.

U Mary could go with “Saints,” but St. Mary’s High School, also in Bismarck, already has that name.

I’m sure that someone more theologically grounded than I can come up with a new name. Perhaps having a contest could do it, as it did for my old high school a few years back, when they retired “Indians” and eventually replaced it with “Timberwolves.”

First they had people suggest names, and a panel selected the most popular and excluded the most inappropriate.

They had two more votes that involved all current students and alumni and winnowed it down to a two, then had a final vote. One clever suggestion was ruled out because it still suggested an American Indian image.

That suggestion was “Hawks.” There is nothing at all offensive with that as a team name, until you put it behind the name of the town (and school), Tomah. And, of course, this could have led to a chopping motion similar to that of Atlanta Braves fans.

So it seems best to take reasonable steps to at least reduce the possibility of negative meanings attached to team names. They are more than fun and games, as the T-shirt episode reminds us. They can be blatantly disrespectful.

(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily News)?