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story.lead_photo.caption Photograph by John McGee

When I first came to the area and learned that the Pea Ridge mascot was a Blackhawk, I thought that was a real good mascot since it is kinda rare, with very few schools having a Blackhawk for a mascot across the United States. I looked up nine schools in the USA with that mascot name, but most of them had a Blackhawk as in Indian warrior, not a bird.

Up in Missouri, Pineville Elementary/Junior High has the same mascot as does Pea Ridge, and the same colors as well. Most schools with a Blackhawk mascot center in the states around Chicago (Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana). That's probably due to the fact that Chicago's professional hockey team is called the Blackhawks.

At any rate, I believe that the only Blackhawks in Arkansas are right here in Pea Ridge. That has cachet similar to the name "Razorbacks" for the University of Arkansas. When folks say Razorbacks anywhere in the country, everyone knows who they are talking about. When I was coaching a summer AAU track and field team, we were based at the university and we used junior Razorbacks for our mascot. We had a Hog on our jerseys and folks knew where we were from when we were running in Texas, California, Florida and, even, Massachusetts.

Because of the schools that use the Indian connotation for Blackhawk, the mascot has come under attack for being "insensitive" and "offensive." The Madison School District in Wisconsin last summer enacted a rule for all Madison schools that anyone wearing a t-shirt with an Indian sports mascot on it would be subject to suspension and even expulsion. In that school district, if someone shouted an expletive on school property, that person would be subject to a reprimand or mandatory counseling, but if that same student just walked in with a Washington Redskins football jersey, he could get kicked out of school.

Fort Atkinson, Wisc., has the Blackhawk mascot, referring to the famed Indian chief Black Hawk who actually fought in the area that encompasses that school district. They are under heavy pressure to change their name, but to their credit, they are resisting the PC police and seek to keep their mascot intact.

The governor of Wisconsin signed a law two years ago that made it much more difficult to force a school to change its name. Prior to that, a single person could claim personal offense and force change on a school with the help of a liberal judge and that state has no lack of that kind of judge.

Schools that would like to keep the Blackhawk mascot and avoid facing intimidation or fierce political pressure to change ought to follow Hendrix College's example of what they did when their "Warrior" mascot came under attack. Hendrix had been the Indian Warriors for a lot of years, but when they were called upon to change, they simply switched their warrior from an Indian one to a Celtic one.

Hendrix used to have an Indian profile on their sports teams, but now they sport a wild haired, face painted warrior that looks a lot like the Celtic warriors of old. Their switch of mascot identity allowed them to keep the name Warriors.

Now comes the rub. Myself, I am a third generation Irish immigrant. I also have some Scot blood in my family tree, so this wild haired Celtic warrior could be construed as making fun of my heritage.

I am SO offended that mascots like the Fightin' Irish and this Celtic Warrior exist, that I have trouble sleeping and it has brought on bouts of depression.

Not.

Celtic warriors were a blend of Norman, Viking, Pict and the Gaels. The Irish people were a blend of some of the fiercest warriors on the planet, and so I can see where they make a great mascot. Since they are a collection of white people, no thought is given if perhaps it might offend someone.

A lot of things have gone off the track over the past few years, with political correctness becoming a substitute for intelligence and common sense.

Now the blackhawks don't actually live around here with most of them living in the American southwest and down through central America. I am not familiar with how the bird came to be the mascot for Pea Ridge but it is a real bird, mostly black with a few areas of white on their bodies.

We have a red-shouldered hawk who has been showing up in our backyard a few times lately, and he is mostly black with some red and white thrown in. He'd make a great mascot.

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Editor's note: John McGee is an award-winning columnist and sports writer. He can be contacted through The Times at prtnews@nwadg.com.

Sports on 03/09/2016

Print Headline: What's in a name?

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