Notre Dame University under pressure to retire football team's ‘Fighting Irish’ leprechaun logo
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Notre Dame University under pressure to retire football team's ‘Fighting Irish’ leprechaun logo

NOTRE DAME University is under increasing pressure to ditch its football team’s nickname of the “Fighting Irish” and, more specifically, its leprechaun-based logo. 

The call comes after the owner of Washington Redskins agreed to a "thorough review" of the team's controversial moniker - a term long considered a slur against Native Americans. 

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. 

Now Dave Hannigan, writing in the Irish Times, has joined the dissenting voices, in a column calling on the Catholic university to retire the "Fighting Irish" leprechaun logo. 

First created by a designer called Ted Drake back in 1964, the logo and mascot has played a major part in establishing out the popular university team’s uniquely Irish identity among Irish-Americans. 

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However, reflecting on the depiction of the leprechaun with "fists raised, hat askew and chin curtain beard” Hannigan says it “is near enough a replica of the simian-featured caricatures deployed by Punch magazine when mocking the Irish throughout the 19th century." 

He argues that for too long, Notre Dame’s leprechaun has managed to “skulk beneath the radar” when it comes to the debate around controversial team names. 

He appears to blame Irish-Americans for the longevity of the offensive mascot, describing them as  "a constituency famous for clinging to an archaic version of the land of their ancestors, take perverse pride in Notre Dame's mascot." 

Hannigan also takes aim at the “fighting Irish” nickname, noting that while it "looks outdated and cringe worthy to someone in Dublin, Ireland, it is regarded as a symbol of cultural heritage to a guy in Dublin, Ohio." 

It’s a stance similar to the one taken by fellow writer Dan Morrison this week, who said “ the origins of the nickname stem from a desire to differentiate Notre Dame for its Catholicism.” 

“It is a negative portrayal of Catholics and immigrants,” he said. “It is a stereotype of the violent Irish. It’s just been spun into a positive over time.” 

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While Notre Dame historians will point to the visit of Eamon de Valera, the former President of Ireland, to the University in 1919 ahead of a game that saw Notre Dame's football team went on to beat Army as the reason they earned the name “The Fighting Irish” such explanations are increasingly falling on deaf ears. 

Sports broadcaster Brian Kenny, himself a son of an Irish immigrant, previously expressed concern over the nickname and logo back in 2018, explaining that “It paints us as a bunch of foolish, drinking, fighting, singing, dancing, & lying gnomes." 

Two years later, could Kenny finally be about to see some action being taken?