THE UNIVERSITY of Notre Dame in Indiana has been told it should consider re-examine the team’s nickname of “the Fighting Irish”.
The call comes after the owner of Washington Redskins bowed to public pressure and agreed to a "thorough review" of the team's controversial moniker - a term long considered a slur against Native Americans.
It represents a major U-turn for owner Dan Snyder who, ever since purchasing the franchise in 1999, had repeatedly rebuffed any suggestion of changing the name.
However, the killing of George Floyd has sparked renewed conversations around the issue of race in America, with many sponsors increasingly conscious of such concerns.
It’s also prompted a wider review of nicknames across the sport, with Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish one of several teams to come under the microscope.
Arguably the biggest and best supported intercollegiate football teams in the world, with home games played in the 77,622-capacity Notre Dame Stadium and televised on NBC, discontent is growing among a small sub-section of fans.
It's being led by Irish-American Notre Dame fan and Slap The Sign journalist Dan Morrison who this week asked readers
Is it time to reconsider Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish nickname?
While Morrison admits that the nickname has helped give the team a strong cultural identity and nationwide following among the Irish American community, he believes it carries negative connotations.
“Unequivocally, the origins of the nickname stem from a desire to differentiate Notre Dame for its Catholicism,” he writes.
“It is a negative portrayal of Catholics and immigrants. It is a stereotype of the violent Irish. It’s just been spun into a positive over time.”
As a child with Irish heritage, Morrison never found it particularly offensive.
However, now he better understands the struggle and oppression faced by his forefathers, he sees it in a different light.
“When the Irish came to America, they were second class citizens. There were signs in windows that stated “No Irish. No dogs,'" he writes.
“This, their welcome to a nation with streets paved with gold, as they fled the genocide of Black 47. As they left an island stolen from them, a language eradicated, a culture razed they came to the United States and weren’t trusted for their religion.
"This, in a land built on the basis of freedom of religion. They came to the United States on coffin ships. They lived in slums. This, to build the United States up for someone else.
“So, yes, it bothers me that the term “Fighting Irish” is used for a nickname. It bothers me that its origins are based on stereotypes, and trying to make the Catholic team seem lesser than their opponents. It bothers me that their mascot and logo are a leprechaun with his fists up like he’s John L. Sullivan.”
For the time being he’s planning on sticking to his own nickname for the team: The Irish. A name he believes celebrates Notre Dame’s cultural ties to the Irish diaspora without indulging in lazy, outdated stereotypes.
The question is: will any fans be joining him in doing so? Morrison certainly hopes so.
Check out Dan Morrison’s fascinating article here.