Michael Matteo: The solution to ‘offensive’ team names

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

Two decades ago I became a co-author of a book titled: The Politically Incorrect Joke book by Four White Males. I was actually the fifth white male because I got involved after the majority of the book had already been written. I wrote the foreword and final four chapters of the book because, at the time, PC was something that was so ridiculous, it was a great source of comedic material.

Sadly, PC never went away and the combination of kids who grew up and became a part of the workforce embraced PC the way Michael Corleone embraced his brother Fredo to whisper in Fredo’s ear that Michael knew about his betrayal in the Godfather.

At the time this book was published, I wrote a piece titled: PC and Professional Sports teams. I was a regular guest on 970 WFLA’s Mark Larson’s show and became known as the “Education Watchdog” because I wrote many pieces exposing issues with public education. Mark read this piece on air and I was inundated with requests for people who wanted a copy of it. The piece is long gone, but I’ve decided to resurrect the basic premise in this article since finding offense with team names is still a popular topic over two decades later.

For many people, sports are an important aspect of their lives. The rooting for teams is a lifelong hobby for many sports enthusiasts and people take great pride in their city having a winning team. Unfortunately, the last few years have seen many athletes merge their on-the-field performance with political views, which have alienated some fans.  In the past, athletes (with notable exceptions) kept their political views private, but today it’s very common for sports personalities to air their political opinions. Kneeling during national anthems has been a relatively new way of athletes protesting what they believe to be social justice. However, this kind of behavior has also led to many former fans walking away from sports and teams that they once supported loyally.  

One controversial issue that has been around for a lot longer than athletes taking political stances is the issue of team names. Last year, the Washington Redskins gave in to pressure to change their name and, now, simply call themselves: The Washington Football Team. This lackluster name hardly generates excitement, and the team currently has no team name. Recently, the Cleveland Indians decided to call themselves the Cleveland Guardians. The reason for this is to appease those who might find the name “Indians” offensive. There are many other team names borrowed from indigenous people and they include: The Atlanta Braves, Bristol Aztecs, Golden State Warriors, Kansas City Chiefs, Florida State Seminoles, and Chicago Blackhawks etc.  How long will it be before these team names are challenged to appease the PC police?

Given this new trend, let’s examine other team names that someone might find potentially offensive:  

The NY/San Francisco Giants may offend short (vertically challenged) people.

The New Orleans Saints/California Angels and San Diego Padres may offend atheists.

Any Animal Name including the Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bulls, Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Tigers, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars and so many other team names that borrow their names from animals might offend animal rights activists.

Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Hawks, Arizona and St. Louis Cardinals might offend people who love birds.

The Boston Red Sox, and Chicago White Sox may offend color blind people or people who don’t like wearing socks.

The New York Jets may offend people who have a fear of flying or prefer buses, cars or trains as their select modes of transportation.

The Oakland Athletics could be offensive to people who are out of shape or fat (horizontally challenged).

St. Louis Blues and Utah Jazz may be offensive to deaf people or people who dislike Blues or Jazz music.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders celebrate the names of high seas criminals and is offensive to victims of piracy.

Even the new name for the Cleveland baseball team: Guardians, implies a law enforcement motif to the team, which may offend those who want to defund law enforcement.  

Evidently finding offense has replaced baseball as the new national pastime, so to make everyone happy there is a very simple solution to the renaming of sports teams that will make everyone happy because there is one word that is completely inoffensive: widget.

Widget is an accounting term that is used to describe something that is unknown or unspecified. It is used for hypothetical examples and is inoffensive due to its generic nature. What sounds better, The New York Football or Baseball team or the New York Widgets? At least with the word “widget” it connects with a thing, even if the thing is nonspecific, and most importantly, isn’t offensive.  

There are few words in the English language that don’t offend, and “widget” is one of them, so why not use it when seeking a replacement for a potentially offensive team name? Perhaps if we make all sports team names politically correct it will reduce the level of “stress” imposed by logos and mascots for those people who require anti-depressants before looking at the names of teams in the standings.

Michael Matteo

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