Changes are coming for the Chicago Blackhawks—but the team’s name isn’t one of them.
Today, the Illinois-based NHL team announced a number of initiatives and new policies that came out of an “ongoing dialogue with local and national Native American groups.”
The most notable of those changes is that from now on, the organization will prohibit fans from wearing Native American headdresses to games and other team events.
“We have always maintained an expectation that our fans uphold an atmosphere of respect, and after extensive and meaningful conversations with our Native American partners, we have decided to formalize those expectations,” according to a statement from the team. “These symbols are sacred, traditionally reserved for leaders who have earned a place of great respect in their tribe, and should not be generalized or used as a costume or for everyday wear.”
As well, the team announced an intention to build “a platform that will further integrate Native American culture and storytelling across our organization,” which will impact games, the team’s social channels and staff members. The team is also working on establishing a new wing dedicated to Native American artifacts, with technology that provides an interactive experience for students in the area, at the Trickster Cultural Center, a gallery focused on Native American art in Schaumburg, Ill.
“Education will be our beacon, and these efforts will continue to honor Native American contributions to our society, including Black Hawk’s legacy, as well as showcase that those achievements are not limited to history books and museums but thriving right now within our military, business, the arts and more,” the statement from the team read.
The roots of the Blackhawks name lie in Black Hawk, a Native American leader, warrior and member of the Sauk tribe. He lived during the late 1700s and early 1800s. The name was selected by the team’s first owner, Frederic McLaughlin, in honor of his army division during World War I, which was nicknamed the Black Hawk Division, after Black Hawk himself.
The team first announced its intention to “expand our efforts, serve as stewards of our name and identity, and raise the bar even higher” on July 7, as changes to brands like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s were making headlines across the country. In the sports world, the Washington Redskins have been the most prominent, announcing earlier this month that they would retire their name and brand identity.
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