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Morden’s senior men’s hockey team is committing to a rebrand after renewed calls to abandon a name and logo considered derogatory and racist towards Indigenous people.
The team — which, since its inception in 1986 — has borne the derogatory "Redskins" name and an Indigenous head logo modelled after that of the Chicago Blackhawks — announced on social media Tuesday it will rebrand, following conversations with community leaders and ongoing calls for change from the public.
"To us, our logo has always represented community, camaraderie, commitment and perseverance," the team's executives wrote in a statement statement posted to Facebook and Twitter.
"We have also acknowledged not all members of our community find our nickname inclusive or appropriate.... We wish to represent every citizen of Morden and made the decision to make changes moving forward."
Calls to change the name and logo arose anew in mid-July as sports teams across North America with similarly offensive names were asked to rebrand.
Morden Mayor Brandon Burley was among those calling on the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League team to make a change as CFL and NFL teams in larger cities such as Edmonton and Washington faced similar public criticism over their names.
"The concept of 'Redskins' is not something that would be taken as a compliment by any First Nations person," said Manitoba's Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels Tuesday.
"It’s not language that you use to give any sort of accolades. It’s not a flattering comment."
The Washington NFL team, which bears the same name as Morden's hockey team, has since announced it will rebrand after widespread calls for change, as has Edmonton's Eskimos.
In 2015, when Morden city councillor Heather Francis advanced a motion for council to request a change, the hockey team's president and general manager Brent Meleck was quoted saying the term was "just a name," and there was no need to do anything, according to a Global News report that year.
Meleck did not respond to a Free Press request for comment Tuesday.
Now the team plans to consider name and logo changes as part of a multifaceted effort to address the impact of the team's name on the local community.
Burley said Tuesday that he’s excited to be able to celebrate the community’s team with a name and logo that is inclusive to all.
"They’re the winningest team in the SEMHL and when I congratulate them on Facebook I can’t use the name," he said. "I’m personally excited to have a team that I can go watch — because I love hockey — and that the community can get ahead of."
Morden’s hockey team is the most decorated in SEMHL history, with seven championship titles since 1986, the last one in 2018-19.
Burley has already committed to personally organizing fundraisers, and contributing significant funds himself, to ensure the team can afford to rebrand.
"Our goal with the fundraiser is to make sure they know the support is there from the community," he said.
Daniels celebrated Burley's leadership along with the other community leaders who led the charge for change, noting that he spoke with the mayor in July to demonstrate that he stood with community members calling for the rebrand.
"Those kind of sentiments for reconciliation on a national level need to be picked up by the local community, not only in words but in action. That’s when you really see the change," Daniels said.
"Thank you to those who had the foresight to see how important this is not only for Morden but for all of Manitoba and Canada... I think we’re very pleased — when you reach these points in history, it’s a reminder that we’re getting somewhere."
There is no firm timeline for the name and logo changes; the team’s statement noted that "multiple items" will need to be changed going forward, and that a team of volunteers and community leaders would be heading up the process.
"While we are working to incorporate the change as efficiently as possible, our primary focus will be to ensure it is done properly and completely," the team said.
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.
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