Website questions if "Fighting Irish" nickname is offensive
SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- A popular Notre Dame themed website is asking for Notre Dame to review its "Fighting Irish" nickname and mascot. Slapthesign.com published and article earlier this week questioning if the name was offensive.
This article comes after teams like the Washington Redskins debate changing its name and logos because of people viewing the name as offensive.
The writer of the article claims the imagery of a leprechaun and a fighting Irishman can be viewed as stereotypes of the Irish people.
The University of Notre Dame says it does not plan on changing it's nickname any time soon.
University officials released a statement saying:
Notre Dame’s nickname – Fighting Irish – began as a term of derision directed against the university’s athletic teams. One reported use of the phrase came in 1899 when Northwestern University students chanted, “Kill the fighting Irish” during a football game. At the time, anti-Catholicism and anti-immigrant sentiments were openly expressed in the United States and, since Notre Dame was largely populated by ethnic Catholics – mostly Irish, but also Germans, Italians and Poles – the University was a natural target for ethnic slurs. When the Notre Dame football team gained national prominence in the first three decades of the 20th century, journalists of the day, especially New York Daily News columnist Francis Wallace, a Notre Dame alumnus, began to popularize the “fighting Irish” tag in their stories. Soon, Notre Dame supporters took it up, turning what once was an epithet into an “in-your-face” expression of triumph. The University had no official nickname at the time, but as Fighting Irish, Catholics and Ramblers were variously applied to it in the press and public, Notre Dame’s president, Father Matthew Walsh (an Irishman), officially adopted Fighting Irish in 1927.
The leprechaun, of course, is symbolic of the Fighting Irish and intentionally a caricature. It also originated – in England – as a derisive symbol of Irish people, which Irish-Americans – including those at Notre Dame – again have turned back on former oppressors as a sign of celebration and triumph. In both the upraised fists of the leprechaun mascot and the use of the word “fighting,” the intent is to recognize the determination of the Irish people and, symbolically, the university’s athletes.
It is worth noting, too, that there is no comparison between Notre Dame’s nickname and the stereotypical images of Black people used by several corporations, or the Indian and warrior names used by other organizations, such as the Washington Redskins. None of these companies or institutions were founded or named by Black people or Native Americans who sought to highlight their heritage by using names and symbols associated with their culture or heritage. At Notre Dame, however, the Irish have been an integral part of the institution since the beginning and, as noted, played a principal role in actually adopting the name. Four of the seven religious who joined Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., in the founding of the University in 1842 were Irish-born. In addition, Notre Dame students and faculty were overwhelmingly Irish throughout the University’s first 100 years, and the representation remains strong today. In fact, we have more students studying the Irish language at Notre Dame than anywhere outside of Ireland itself, and we have what is widely recognized as the pre-eminent Irish studies program in the U.S. It also is worthy of note that 15 of Notre Dame’s 17 presidents have been of Irish descent.
Unlike companies or organizations that have expropriated others' cultures, our symbols stand as celebratory representations of a genuine Irish heritage at Notre Dame, a heritage that we regard with respect, loyalty and affection.