While the sports world ponders changes to long-standing, racially-sensitive team names, organizations in Red Deer are deciding to hold onto their monikers.
Organizations in Red Deer are no stranger to the controversy. Many of the minor hockey teams in the community have long been named the Chiefs, as well as indoor minor lacrosse teams.
“We at RDMH recognize and appreciate that this is a sensitive topic right now. Having said that, we are very proud of our team name and also what this tradition means to our local hockey community,” said Red Deer Minor Hockey GM Dallas Gaume.
“At this time, we have no plans to change our team name.”
Many of the Red Deer Minor Baseball Association’s teams are known as the Braves. It, too, says no change in names is being considered.
“This subject has been discussed with our board of directors, as well as our governing body, and although we are aware this may need to be addressed in the future, RDMBA has no immediate plans to change our name,” said association vice-president Renae Clark in an email.
“We are very proud of our Braves name and the strength it symbolizes. We are, however, cognizant that some may feel differently, and we welcome any community feedback, whether positive or negative, on this matter.”
A Junior B hockey team on Vancouver Island has taken a different stance. The Saanich Junior Braves are in the process of changing their name.
They have had the Braves name and logo since 1967, when the team first joined the Vancouver Island Hockey League. They said the name does not reflect the valued relationships with area First Nations or its indigenous players.
Debate over team names that are sometimes deemed to be offensive flared up a few weeks ago when it was reported the NFL’s Washington Redskins were considering a change, after being largely defiant in the past decade.
The discussion was mostly at the behest of sponsors who were considering pulling support from the team.
The Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves, both Major League Baseball teams, also released statements addressing the history of their team names and a commitment to listening to Indigenous voices in the community about a potential change.
In Canada, citizens continue to raise their voices about a potential name change for the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos.
Norma Dunning, a professor at the University of Alberta who has a Ph.D. in Indigenous peoples education, said that change is often slow in situations like these.
She said adults in the sports organizations in Red Deer that have team names such as the Braves and Chiefs, need to consider the impact those brands might have on young athletes.
“You’re talking about very young minds, and we need those young people to be the ones who create change. Not people my age. It’s always the younger generation who will make change happen,” she said.
“If we have kids who are still playing for the Braves and the Chiefs, there’s a problem. What’s happening with the people who are coaching them, or their parents?
“Why aren’t they thinking about it? At the end of the day, if somebody doesn’t bring an issue to our attention, we’re not going to do anything about it.”
Dunning also understands the resistance to change. There’s a long tradition with the names and an attachment from people who wore those logos when they were athletes, she said.
“Do we, as those kids’ parents or teachers, or anybody with influence in their lives, do we allow that? Is that OK?” asked Dunning, who recently wrote an opinion piece about why she thinks the Eskimos need to consider rebranding.
“When we are talking about changing a team name, what makes people uncomfortable is they have to examine their own sense of racism, and what is it, and how come I think the way I do. It’s very uncomfortable and people don’t want to deal with it.”
Not only did Dunning think there should be a desire to change, but she also proposed an interesting solution to the quandary. She said that if the organizations were able to empower the athletes with the ability to rename their teams, it might lessen the turmoil or anger that would come with change.
“They have a good opportunity in Red Deer to make a positive change and to impact those team members in a very positive way,” she said.