Known for being the center of much offense and controversy himself, British writer Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie is famously quoted having said, “Nobody has the right to not be offended. That right doesn’t exist in any declaration I have ever read. If you are offended it is your problem, and frankly lots of things offend lots of people.”
Now while I don’t condone the excessive racism, sexism and homophobia that pollute this precious planet I think old Rushdie was onto something. There’s a difference between being politically correct and not knowing how to take a f***ing joke and as a society we spend a whole lot of time deciding whether we’re allowed to laugh or not.
The concept of “political correctness” is confusing for many people. Being politically correct means that you avoid terms, expressions and actions that may offend a particular person or group of people. Let’s dumb it down. Jokes involving race? Offensive. Dated terms such as “Indian giver”? Offensive. “Your momma” jokes? Hilarious! (Sorry moms, we love you) See? Not so hard.
One would think an organization as high profile as the NFL would have a grasp on this concept, however, if we’ve learned one thing from decades of Native American activists lobbying both the Washington Redskins and the NFL to change the name of the team to something less offensive it’s that…well they just don’t give a crap. After all, how inconvenient would it be for them to redesign their equally offensive logo?
As much heat as the Washington Redskins take, they aren’t the only sports franchise to make use of a name or a mascot that’s considered offensive by a group of people. In fact, after digging for information on the topic I’m fairly certain I could write a book. While many of the entries on this list are genuinely objectionable, others are merely (distastefully) amusing. These are the Top 15 Offensive Team Nicknames in Sports.
15. Prince Albert Raiders
Already you’re thinking, “Wow, this chick is soft”. Yes, technically there is nothing offensive about this team’s name, however hear me out as I explain why it makes the list. This Saskatchewan junior hockey team has come under fire for their distasteful mascot, and while other offensive teams argue that they shouldn’t be forced to rename or rebrand for sake of tradition that isn’t exactly the case with the Raiders. In fact, the proud Arabian raider character holding a sword and a hockey stick was unveiled only last year. Old racial stereotypes alive and well as ethnic minorities in rural Saskatchewan squirm in their seats at the local ice arena.
14. Rhode Island School of Design Nads
While a man dressed as a giant penis is always funny, you can’t tell me mothers and grandmothers aren’t terribly uncomfortable cheering, “Go Nads!”. Who would have guessed the Rhode Island School of Design has such a dirty sense of humor? Their sports teams include basketball “The Balls” and hockey “The Nads”. While by far not as offensive as the majority of other teams on this list the Nads come in at no.14 with both a hilariously offensive mascot named “Scrotie” and the simple yet effective slogan: “Go Nads”.
13. Centralia Orphans
I admittedly laughed upon discovering this team and yet feel the undeniable need to apologize to anyone raised without parents. Seriously Centralia, Illinois. What the hell? Legend has it this team’s name came about after an announcer saw the team’s mismatched uniforms and said they looked like a bunch of orphans. You’d think somewhere between the 1940s and 2015 the name would evolve yet the team continues to be proud parentless wards of the state.
12. Freeburg Midgets
While the rest of the world has been using the PC term “little people”, this memo hasn’t made it way to Freeburg Illinois. Seriously who is in charge of naming the high school sports teams throughout Illinois? And have the Orphans ever played the Midgets?!
The Little People of America organization has been circulating a petition urging the district to change the team name, their president pointing out the possibility of a student with dwarfism attending the school one day down the road and the difficult learning environment that that would create.
11. Butte Pirates
They have to know…right?
I know what you’re thinking, “it’s pronounced Byoot”. But if you didn’t know that (or you have a ridiculously immature sense of humor such as myself) to state the obvious it looks like Butt Pirates. Funny? Yes. Offensively similar to the derogatory term for gay men? Without a doubt. This is Idaho so it’s probably safe to assume, conservative or not, parents don’t want their children nicknamed the “butt pirates”.
10. London Rippers
Local women’s rights organizations immediately began protesting this London, Ontario baseball team in the summer of 2012. Could naming the team after the most infamous serial killer of all time have been the reason? Oh and the city name is the same as the city in which he carried out these crimes? Perhaps. The Rippers halted all operations midway through the season, citing financial constraints and a lack of interest shown by the community.
9. Washington Bullets
The name on its own seems harmless and it likely was. However, before the NBA’s Washington D.C. franchise was known as the Wizards, and during a time when D.C. had one of the highest homicide rates in the country, they were the Washington Bullets. The name change occurred in 1997 in owner Abe Pollin’s statement against gun violence.
Fan devotion and profits were not lost due to the name change. Washington Redskins, take note.
T8. Kansas City Chiefs
Washington, D.C.’s NFL squad is hardly the only sports team with an offensive name and/or logo derived from Native American culture.
The Chiefs manage to fly slightly under the radar alongside the arguably more offensive (and racist) Redskins, however, let’s not ignore the logo: an arrowhead, the stadium: “Arrowhead”, or the fact that they have a team horse named “Warpaint”.
T8. Chicago Blackhawks
How is the Blackhawks name any less offensive than the Redskins? The lone defense of the Chicago Blackhawks is that the team is named after the World War One-era U.S. Army division “The Black Hawks,” which in turn took its name from a Sauk Indian chief. We’ve seen your logo and you belong right here alongside a few other teams that exploit Native American culture.
T8. Cleveland Indians
“Indian” the very name of this team, is a racial slur for Native Americans. Their mascot? “Chief Wahoo”. Philip Yenyo, executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio has been at the forefront of protests, “…I think our people and others have come to realize that this caricature of our people as a red-face, smiling savage does great harm to us and our culture and has done so for many years,” he told The Guardian. “Think of it this way: if this team was called the Cleveland African-Americans, would the country permit them to have as their logo, Little Black Sambo? How many people do you think would be out here protesting that?”
7. The Zulu Cannibal Giants
Even by 1930s standards this was a pretty racist team name. The Zulu Cannibal Giants were an all African-American baseball team founded in Louisville, Kentucky in 1934. The team played wearing grass skirts, and body and face paint to make themselves look like Ethiopian warriors. Players even used bats fashioned to look like African war clubs. Take a moment to allow that to sink in.
6. Frisco Coons
Apparently it took this North Dallas suburb until 2002 before someone realized their team name was racially offensive. Right. Now the “Raccoons”, students and supporters say they were proud of the nickname created in 1924 back “when no one attached any racial significance to the name”. Dear Frisco, the term was actually popularized by the song “Zip Coon”, played at Minstrel shows in the 1830s. But that’s none of my business.
5. Pekin Chinks
The local high school’s sports teams in Pekin were called the Chinks from the 1930s up until 1980. Then they changed their names to the Dragons. Props to this school for being so determined to hang on to its (nonexistent) Chinese heritage.
So why the Chinks? Apparently residents believed Pekin was on the opposite side of the globe from Pekin (i.e., Peking or Beijing) China. By the way, if you’re keeping track Pekin is also in Illinois. Evidently all of the geography teachers were too busy coming up with offensive team names to teach anyone.
4. Robstown Cotton Pickers
It’s 2015 so obviously this teams name no longer exists and like many of the team names on this list has been changed to something less offensive. Right?
Wrong. It’s 2015 and not one, but all athletic teams at this Texas school go by the racial moniker “Cottonpickers”. Given the history of cotton picking in the American south I don’t think anyone cares that Texas grows the most cotton of any state in the U.S.
3. Coachella Valley Arabs
Coachella Valley High School adopted the nickname “Arabs” in the 1930s as a “tribute” to the Arab immigrant population who worked on local date farms. However, over the years, the mascot turned into a dancing, offensive, racist caricature.
In 2014 the school announced that they would keep the Arabs as their team name—adding “Mighty” to the front of it—and rework the mascot so it’s not so blatantly offensive.
If we’ve learned one thing from this list it’s that if racism and discrimination has to start somewhere, why not at the high school level?
2. Washington Redskins
The U.S. Patent Office’s decision in 2014 to revoke any trademarks associated with the Washington Redskins represented a landmark ruling against what is widely regarded as the most offensive team name in sports.
Originally known as the Boston Braves, Native American individuals, tribes and organizations have been questioning the use of the name and image for decades. Despite controversy the team’s owner, and the majority of fans, which include some Native Americans say that the name honors the achievements and virtues of Native Americans, and that it is not intended in a negative manner.
Many consider it a slur to Native Americans.
1. Dangerous Darkies
No this is not a truly shocking nickname given to a team by opposing fans. A former South African pro soccer team, the Dangerous Darkies team name ceases to exist not due to a moment of clarity that the team’s name was so ridiculously offensive, but because the team merged with another local team. They’re now the Mpumalanga Black Aces.
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