Streatham ice hockey team have dropped the name Redskins, as the discriminatory connotations could deter young ethnic minority players from joining the club.
The decision comes amid a furore in the US as campaigns are demanding the Washington Redskins change their name, arguing it is offensive to Native Americans.
The Streatham club says that this summer they will discuss with supporters whether they should add a new name, or whether to go back to their roots and once again be called simply Streatham IHC.
Head coach Warren Rost, whose father was part of the founding group of players who introduced the Redskin’s name in the 1970s, said: “We find ourselves being drawn into a public debate due to the upcoming NFL game in London and felt we needed to clarify our intentions.”
Warren said the new name should better reflect London’s ethnic diversity, referring to the team’s defenceman during his father’s years, Erkine Douglas, who was a Londoner of Afro-Caribbean descent and a seminal part of the club’s development.
He said: “The club has always reflected the diversity of our local area, and indeed London itself.
“If we keep the Redskins name and fast forward five, 10, 20 years I think it is clear with the negative connotations associated with the name that a young Erskine Douglas may not feel comfortable joining the club in this future.
“If that happens then the dream dies. The dream was an inner city sports club that became a big part of the local community and offered a place where everyone was welcomed and treated equally.
“If we do not make the correct decisions now to protect this legacy then this will be to our shame. We want the name Redskins to go out in a blaze of glory at the end of this season.”
Streatham ice hockey club said they had no pressure to change the name from any politicians, councillors, sponsors or press here in the UK and the decision was theirs alone.
“We must point out that it is not our intention to take sides in the Washington Redskins NFL debate,” they said.
“America is not England and Washington is not Streatham. It is about making the correct decision for us and not to dictate policy for anyone else.”
The decision over the new name will take place at the end of the season when club captain Joe Johnston will share potential new names drawn from key figures in the club’s history.
Warren also highlights the conversation he had with his father over the name change, which turned out to not be the confrontation he had expected.
“I started with an almost apologetic tone, umming and arring assuming he would feel strongly the name should stay,” Warren said.
“Instead when I had finished explaining the situation he shrugged his shoulders and said ‘change the name. Who cares about the name? It was never about the name it was always about the people’.”
Their decision comes after two seasons of transitions in the branding, including the removal of the Native American Indian face on the front of the team shirts, which was replaced with the Streatham logo from their earlier years.
Warren says that the name change in the 1970s was down to the difficulty in getting ice hockey strips, and so they used the colours of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Native American face Chicago used for their logo.
He said: “They settled on Redskins because it invoked a sense of fierce warriors and it kept the Native American theme of the logo.”
In the US, pressure for the Washington Redskins to change its name has been undergoing for years.
Washington was one of the founding members of the NFL, becoming the Redskins after moving to the US capital in 1937, before which the side was known as the Boston Braves.
Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder is determined that the name stays unchanged, saying that maintaining the link to the renowned history of the team is vital.
Streatham ice hockey is one of the oldest ice hockey clubs in England, established in 1932, when the club was simply known as Streatham.
After a troubled period, the club was re-branded as the Streatham Redskins in 1974, influenced by clubs in the US.
During the 1980s, the club became a leading team in the British Hockey League, with their biggest rivals being the Nottingham Panthers.
From there their position in the British Premier League put the team alongside the foremost in UK ice hockey, which continued until the early nineties, when the team folded for a decade.
The team came back in 2004, still using the Redskins branding, and then underwent a ‘difficult’ transition as their historic old ice rink closed in December 2011.
The club now plays out of a brand new facility in London, which opened in November 2013, which includes the only Olympic-sized ice rink in London.
They have now started to contend for trophies in the third tier NIHL South Division 1 of UK hockey.
Picture courtesy of Rick Webb, with thanks