Tuesday, August 8, 2006

The Race Card Flops Again

Go and get a stiff drink before you read this story; you're going to need it! Red type by Yours Truly.

From the Buffalo News:

Some leaders of Buffalo's black community say they consider the new name for the city's minor-league basketball team, the Silverbacks, offensive and racially insensitive.Oh good grief, here we go again with the percived racial insults...

They say a silverback - an adult male gorilla - is an inappropriate nickname for a team with a large number of black players because bigots have referred to blacks as "gorillas," "apes" and "monkeys."

Those terms "have a history of being used to dehumanize African-Americans," said Betty Jean Grant, a Buffalo School Board member and former Common Council member. "That is a very derogatory term." So what are we supposed to do? Rename the animal itself? Puh-LEASE, no one is calling anyone a "monkey" here! It's a mascot, like the Redhawks or the Timberwolves!

But members of the Silverbacks organization said they don't consider the new name offensive and won't change it. Good for you. Don't be bullied by someone's case of hypersensitive P.C.

"No. We're excited with the nickname. We're excited for our season. This is pro basketball back in Buffalo," said Rich Jacob, the team's general manager and head coach.

The team, which plays in the American Basketball Association, has carried the name Silverbacks since May.

The team played as the Rapids last year under former owner Gary Nice, who sold the franchise to co-owners Dan Robbie and Todd Wier last December.

The new owners had to change the team's nickname because Nice retained the rights to the Rapids name. Wier asked the team for input, and Modie Cox - who serves as a player and assistant coach - came up with the winning idea.

A silverback is an older male gorilla who is a respected leader of his group, said Cox, a devoted fan of Discovery Channel's Animal Planet network.

"We're going to go out there; we're going to demand that respect," he said of the team.

Cox, a former University at Buffalo basketball star, said he did not consider the racial implications of the name and apologizes if anyone is offended by it.

"I'm a young black man. And I'm proud of my race, my heritage," he said. What? So a black guy who thought that gorillas were pretty cool animals came up with this idea? So is it still racist, or will he be vilified as an "Uncle Tom?"

A handful of other minor-league sports teams use the Silverbacks nickname, including a semi-professional football team in London, Ont., and a pro soccer team in Atlanta. Yeah, but they're not playing basketball.

Atlanta's team takes its nickname from a beloved gorilla, Willie B., who lived at Zoo Atlanta for 39 years. The team has not received any complaints that the name is racist, marketing director Laura Fedrigo said.

Locally, there was little reaction to the name change until Grant and the others saw a small item on the Silverbacks in last Saturday's Buffalo News.

They say it's not much of a leap from the Silverback name to offensive terms such as "gorilla," "ape" or "monkey."

The critics also did not like the logo, which shows an intense, red-skinned gorilla pointing at the viewer. "I did find it offensive. It looked like an angry black man," said Eva M. Doyle, a columnist for the Buffalo Criterion newspaper. "I think it's offensive to people who are looking at it from a historical perspective." Whoa! I think the real racist here is Ms. Doyle! Who on earth would look at this logo and think it looks like a black guy? (And an angry one at that?) I just don't see it. You've got to be bringing your own bigotry to that table, Doyle.

Frank Mesiah, the head of the NAACP's Buffalo chapter, and Bryon J. McIntyre, a Buffalo firefighter who writes for the Buffalo Challenger newspaper, both recalled a comment made by Laurence Michael Powell, one of the Los Angeles police officers who arrested motorist Rodney King in 1991.

Before King's arrest, Powell described over the radio a domestic dispute involving a black couple as something out of the movie "Gorillas in the Mist." And this has what exactly to do with the logo?

Mesiah addressed the topic this week on a radio call-in show he hosts on WUFO. and Willie L. Warren planned to tackle the issue on his show this morning. Critics are not calling for an organized protest or boycott of the Silverbacks, but they do hope to personally ask team officials to change the name.

But Cox and Jacob said the team has no intention of changing the name.

"This is ridiculous. [They're upset] because of a name? They need to look at the bigger purpose and the mission of the team," said Cox, referring to a youth-education program titled "Do Your Best, Never Quit."

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