American sports teams are not alone in drawing fire over controversial team names. Our neighbors to the north are getting their toques in a twist about a team identity some Canadians say is as ultra-violent as the NBA’s erstwhile Washington Bullets.
During Monday’s Canadian Football League match-up, the Calgary Stampeders unveiled a new set of jerseys that some critics claim encourages gun violence.
The jersey typically features a galloping horse on the sleeve, and the respective player’s jersey number on the shoulder.
Critics expressed outrage on Twitter:
With the @calstampeders new signature uniform brandishing guns, I guess nobody thought about modern urban society and the gun violence cont.— Tyler Richard (@thetylerrichard) August 29, 2014
Despite complaints, the team’s management and players defended the new design as recognizing and celebrating the region’s history.
“We did think long and hard about using it,” team president Gord Norrie told CTV News. “But this is Alberta. This is Western Canada. This is Calgary. This is cowboy country. Pistols don’t kill people. People kill people.”
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell echoed his boss’s sentiment.
“I know people can, I guess, portray it as we’re promoting [gun violence],” he said. “But, obviously, it’s for a reason. It’s for us being the Stampeders.”
The team is currently still selling the jerseys on its online team store. Critics focused only on the depiction of firearms while ignoring other violent implications of the team’s name: Though Canadian statistics were not immediately available, a five-year study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicates more than 20 people in the United States each year are trampled to death by cattle.
Over the years, a handful of teams have shied away from depicting themselves in association with firearms. In 1995, the aforementioned Bullets were renamed the Washington Wizards by then-owner Abe Pollin. The Houston Colt .45s became the Houston Astros in 1965, in a move to associate the team with NASA’s human spaceflight center in the Bayou City.
As for the Stampeders, they stuck with the “Outlaw” jerseys and went on to win this year’s Battle of Alberta 28-13 over the Edmonton Eskimos, a team that has faced its own share of controversy for its name.
— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.