A Manitoba hockey team is fighting to keep its name despite growing controversy over offensive sports nicknames, logos and mascots.
The Morden Redskins senior men’s team has been a part of the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League (SEMHL) since 1986, according to the SEMHL website.
“From my perspective, I think it shows a lot of respect,” said Brent Meleck, the team’s Anishinabe president and general manager.
“When we’re out there and we’re playing hockey it brings a good vibe, it’s always been a good vibe with the Morden Redskins name.”
Added Melek, a member of Manitoba’s Swan Lake First Nation: “People think it’s offensive because it’s in the dictionary or wherever it is that it says it’s a racial slur.”
Debate is raging across North America about which team names are offensive, fuelled by the name change announced by the National Football League’s Washington Redskins on Monday.
The Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League are also wrestling with the decision to keep or retire their name.
Melek said there was pressure about five years ago but the name stuck.
“I mean, that’s not our intention at all. I mean we’re completely opposite of that,” he said in a telephone interview.
But the mayor of Morden, a small city about 130 km south of Winnipeg, feels it’s time to update the team’s name.
“The name has hurt and continues to hurt, and certainly as a public official, as a person who’s elected to represent the entirety of this city, I will stand up for the rights of all including our Indigenous community,” Brandon Burley said.
“I also want to point out that I’m not preaching from a soap box; I’m pointing three fingers squarely back at myself when I’m pointing one at the name.”
Burley noted the city would be willing to help financially with associated costs should the team decide to change its name.
“I’ve certainly offered to help ensure that funding was present for them and to do that fundraising effort and even help out of my own pocket,” he said.
“That is certainly a thing I think council, the city have had very positive conversations with people who have been supporters of our men’s hockey team in the past and would love to have a hockey team to support moving forward.”
Meleck said the team is presently conducting a review, but it will not be complete in the immediate future.
“I mean obviously we need to review all of our stuff again and, you know, we’re going to go from there and keep everything positive and I think we’ll come out with a good result. I have a good feeling about it,” he said.
Burley said his support for the team was unwavering.
“Of course, we have no senior team except for this one and hockey is sacrosanct in Canada, and I think that we would love to have a team to cheer for and a jersey and a logo and a name and a brand that is truly reflective of our community values,” he added.