I’m a guy, and it recently occurred to me that I don’t write enough about sports. So in this post, I’m going to take on a sports-related issue that’s on the mind of so many manly sports fans.
I speak, of course, about offensive team names.
You really have to sympathize with these teams and their fans. The name probably harkens back to a simpler, less politically-correct time, when folks didn’t worry so much about belittling entire groups of people. Sure, it’s a new, more tolerant century now, but should teams really be expected to forfeit all the traditions and heritage–not to mention trademark rights–that go with the name just to placate an ethnic group that might feel insulted? And if the team is renamed, should the FBI then descend upon millions of households to confiscate all merchandise that has the old, offending moniker and logo on it?
If you follow sports at all, you know by now that I am talking specifically about the Kentucky Kikes of the American Professional Chess Association.
I feel qualified to write about this, not only because I am a man who enjoys his sports, but because I am a Jew who is supposed to be offended by what is taken by many as a derogatory term for my tribe. I am also supposed to be upset by the team’s bearded, long-nosed mascot, not to mention the scantily-clad Kikettes who dance suggestively whenever the home team takes an opponent’s piece.
Israel Gelfer, an official for the World Chess Federation, which, for some reason, has the acronym FIDE*, seemed to defend the stereotypical connection of Jews and chess when he was quoted as saying, “Chess is in Jewish DNA. Jewish people are clever.”** This statement was reported in, of all places, an Indian publication.***
Other Jewish leaders have pointed out that the name of the team is clearly inflammatory. The Jewish American Kvetching Association (JAKA) released this statement: “Just as no one would tolerate a basketball team called the Nebraska Negros, no one should tolerate the Kentucky K-words.”****
I should point out here that the word “kike” was not originally an epithet. According to Wikipedia, it came into being during an era of massive waves of Jewish arrivals at Ellis Island. After courageously emigrating–usually a bit too late–from whatever violence and discrimination they faced in their homelands, Jews were confronted with a problem: unable to write in English, they refused to put an “X” on the signature line of the immigration forms because they thought it represented Christianity, so they drew circles instead. In Yiddish, the word for little circle is “kikeleh,” which was ultimately shortened to “kike.”
So when someone calls a Jewish person a kike, they are not necessarily expressing hatred or intolerance; they are simply saying that you are a little circle, as in “That f***ing little circle screwed up my tax return.”
But, history aside, times have, indeed, changed. The owner of the team is on record as saying, “The Kikes’ nickname is presented in a way that honors Jews. The name and mascot have always represented the wisdom and bravery of the Jewish race.” When asked about the Kikettes halftime routine involving long beards, the owner stated, “That is obviously honoring one of the Jewish people’s major contributions to American society: comedy.”
So what do I think? I think it’s time to recognize that sensitivities do change, and that sports teams have a responsibility to not contribute to racial stereotypes, even if it means not reflecting whatever underlying attitudes might exist in the society in which they play.
And, just as an aside, I think the Washington Redskins, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves should probably change their names and/or logos, too.
See you soon.
P.S. If this post offended you in any way, then you’ve made my point.
*True. **Also true. ***This is true, too. It was published in The Asian Age, a publication from India. ****I totally made up this meshuganuh statement, and the organization.