Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 11, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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4 SEPT. 11, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED N otre Dame didn't waste any time defending its heritage and history last month when a goofy study and story surfaced about how its Fighting Irish lep- rechaun rated as the fourth-most "offensive" mascot in college football. The survey, which was con- ducted by Quality Logo Products — a Chicago-based company that prints logos on t-shirts and other products — listed Florida State's Osceola and Renegade, San Di- ego State's Aztec Warrior and Hawaii's Vili the Warrior as the only three mascots more offen- sive than Notre Dame's nameless leprechaun … and the university wasn't too happy about it. In a lengthy essayed response sent to The Indianapolis Star, Notre Dame fiercely defended the Fight- ing Irish leprechaun and expressed its displeasure for being lumped with the Native American mascots that are almost universally considered offensive. "There is no comparison between Notre Dame's nickname and the ste- reotypical images of Black people used by several corporations, or the Indian and warrior names used by other orga- nizations, such as the Washington Red- skins," the university argued. "None of these companies or institutions were founded or named by Black people or Native Americans who sought to high- light their heritage by using names and symbols associated with their culture or heritage." With its mascot under attack, Notre Dame also included a history lesson in its rebuttal that in part explained how the leprechaun's upraised fists are a symbol of Irish resiliency, not of vio- lence, and the leprechaun caricature is meant to celebrate the school's deep Irish roots. According to the university, "Fight- ing Irish" was officially adopted as the Notre Dame nickname in 1927 and the leprechaun became the official mascot in 1965. Before that, Irish terriers served as the University mascot. Notre Dame also noted that four of the seven religious leaders who joined Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., to create the university in 1842 were Irish born. And through the first 100 years after campus opened, its faculty and students over- whelmingly came from Irish descent. "We have what is widely recognized as the preeminent Irish studies program in the U.S.," the statement additionally explained. "It also is worthy of note that 15 of Notre Dame's 17 presidents are of Irish decent." For most, this rhubarb is and was nothing more than a manufactured con- troversy on a slow summer news day that means nothing to Notre Dame. But during an era of heightened racial and ethnic sensitivity, and sometimes political correctness, let's hope this isn't the first round of a long fight for Notre Dame to preserve its cherished mascot and nickname. Look, not many could argue that the Washington Redskins, or the St. John's Redmen, and so many other insensitive Native American nicknames — often accompanied by insulting caricatures and game-day rituals — went too far and needed to be dumped. But where should the final line be drawn? Seminoles? Cowboys? Crusaders? Red Raiders? Hurricanes? Those storms bring more carnage than the Fighting Irish ever could. De- mon Deacons? That's not a very nice way to address Christian clerics. To find real answers from real Irishmen on the current status and future fate of the Fighting Irish nickname and logo, a good place to start is with the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) — the oldest Irish Catholic fraternal or- ganization in the United States. Compelled to respond to the mascot musings, the organization called this attack of a fictional character — based on findings from an unscientific poll per- formed by a for-profit logo com- pany — a misguided waste of time and attention. "The leprechaun is a beloved figure of Irish folklore, not his- tory," the AOH said in a lengthy response to this surprising controversy. "As to the sobriquet, 'The Fighting Irish,' most accounts trace it back to the early days of Notre Dame's sports program when anti-Catholic sentiment in America was high. The fight against such hate is a fight well worth fighting, then and now, and it is a nickname to be proud of." At the rate college and professional mascots and nicknames are being erased, maybe someday every team will follow the lead of the NFL's Washington Football Team and be identified by only colors or sport. "The Notre Dame Blue and Gold" or "The Notre Dame Lacrosse Team" are a couple of clever suggestions. But for me, "offensive" in this context means something that is historically de- rogatory or defamatory to a certain race, ethnicity or group of people, and try- ing to apply that standard to a mythical character that lives under toadstools and chases rainbows doesn't reach that threshold, not even close. ✦ Notre Dame has used the nickname "The Fighting Irish" since 1927, and the mythical leprechaun became the school's official mascot in 1965. PHOTO BY JAMES GILBERT Leprechaun Debates Aren't Worth Fool's Gold UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at

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