- - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

This is going to come out a little blunt, but I feel that bluntness is required here. Chicago Blackhawks fans (of which I am one), you are racist. At least you are if you have the audacity to wear apparel with the team’s logo on it. Or, heaven forbid, your Patrick Kane jersey.

So, to all of you showing support for the 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, I hope you understand the terrible act you’re committing. Your Blackhawks apparel is offensive, and you should not be allowed to wear it.

The above opinion comes to you from the local public school board in Madison, Wisconsin. In what seems to be the first rule of its kind in the country, students will not be allowed to wear clothing to the district’s schools with Native American sports team names or logos.

Before the upcoming school year, the Native American Student Association will work with district officials to come up with a list of team names and logos that are prohibited. Two that will be on the list are the Chicago Blackhawks and the Florida State Seminoles, and it will surely grow much longer than that.

According to the district, it will prohibit “clothing with words, pictures or caricatures based on negative stereotypes of a specific gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or disability. Students may not wear shirts, hats or other attire with Native American team names, logos or mascots that depict negative stereotypes.”

While this debate has been happening for years, this new rule takes it one step too far. If a school wants to change its name because faculty or students don’t want to have a Native American mascot, that is fine.

If the ownership of the Washington Redskins decided that it was in the team’s best interest to pick a different name, so be it.

I would have no problem with either scenario. What I do have a problem with is banning someone’s constitutionally protected freedom of speech. Just because a high-school student wears his Jonathan Toews jersey to school, that does not mean he is trying to offend Native American students.

In fact, I would venture to guess he just likes the Blackhawks and is showing his support for the team captain.

This ban on apparel does raise some questions, however. Can the students discuss last night’s game and say the name Blackhawks? Or is that also offensive? Instead, maybe it would be safer to say that hockey team from Chicago.

Also, how will they decide what else is offensive? Would a student be sent home for wearing a Notre Dame Fighting Irish shirt? I’m sure one could argue it continues an offensive and negative stereotype.

The story does not end here, though. Exercising control over the students in the district is not enough. The rule also calls for visiting teams to abide by the same set of rules. If a different school has a Native American team name, the student athletes will be forced to wear different jerseys and have their mascot stay home. Otherwise, the game could be cancelled.

So the Madison school district will force visiting schools to purchase alternative jerseys and ban fans from showing their school pride?

That is simply ridiculous. This may sound trivial now, but it could become a trend around the country, which would be a huge blow to free speech. Instead of demonizing individual students for simply supporting a sports team, school districts should take this opportunity to have an open conversation.

Students should learn why some might be offended by certain mascots or symbols, but those on the other side should not automatically shut down opposing views as racist or discriminatory.

In my opinion, unless a student’s outfit is openly advocating threats against someone else or advertising illegal acts, let them wear what they want.

Perhaps then we could all learn to accept people for who they are and not what is on their jersey.

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