There's no such thing as bad press

Image of Ottawa Tomahawks logo The Ottawa Tomahawks, the most recent franchise to grace the fledgling National Basketball League of Canada, have in all likelihood set a new league record: the shortest-lived team in professional basketball history. Less than one day after Bytown Sports & Entertainment announced that the city's new professional basketball team would be named the Ottawa Tomahawks, team owner Gus Takkale indicated that the new franchise would drop the name.

The controversy began on the Twitter social networking site when a handful of vocal malcontents embarked upon a campaign accusing the new team of "racial insensitivity" for its use of the word tomahawk: a weapon commonly associated with Native Canadians". Responding to the allegations, the team espoused the view that "the Tomahawk name ... is referencing a type of slam dunk rather than First Nations culture". The explanation, at first glance, does appear to be reasonable and quite innocent, but is it the only possible explanation?

In keeping with my cynical nature, I can envision two additional diametrically-opposed possibilities: either team owner Gus Takkale is a complete moron, or he's one helluva brilliant strategist who's not only able to recognize opportunity when it knocks, but equally capable of opening the door to capitalize upon it. In light of last year's controversy surrounding the Nepean Redskins amateur football organization, a topic I chimed in on last October, Forest Gump's less-gifted sibling should have been able to anticipate some objection to the use of the name Tomahawks. Call me a skeptic, but I find it difficult to believe Gus could be that daft.

An alternative explanation, certainly one deserving of consideration, posits that Takkale's decision to name the team the Tomahawks was a calculated business decision specifically designed to bring the new basketball team onto the public's radar. Whether by unintentional blunder or calculated design, the Twitter-twits rose to the occasion, spasmodically twitching like bacon in a hot skillet, calling the decision "ridiculous and cultural appropriation". Quite predictably, the media jumped on the preverbial bandwagon faster than a Quebec politician on graft. It would have taken shitloads of money to secure the quantity of media attention the team received as every newspaper, radio and television station in the city scurried for the scoop. As Oscar Wilde so aptly stated: "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about".

In my view, it's unfortunate that Takkale capitulated on the Tomahawk name in an effort to appease the Twitter-twits. When a child throws a temper tantrum and a parent relents, the child might stop temporarily but the absurd behaviour is effectively reinforced. In this regard, the Twitter-twits quite likely feel vindicated, believing they've averted an incident of blatant racism when, in effect, all that has really happened is their predilection for absurd behaviour has been reinforced. I feel compelled, once again, to offer commentary directly to Ian Campeau, one of the chief objectors to the team's moniker. (That would be "small c" chief in case you're actually following the bouncing basketball...):

"I'm confused. Precisely which part of the Ottawa Tomahawks name do you believe constitutes a 'cultural appropriation'? Is it the use of the word tomahawk, the word for a native axe-like tool, to describe a style of dunk in basketball? Or it is the use of the word Ottawa, a word for the Algonquin tribe Odawa meaning 'traders', for which our fair city is named? But since we're on the topic of 'cultural appropriation', I couldn't help but notice that you've adopted the pseudonym DJ NDN in your musical pursuits. Any idea what Tecumseh's DJ gangsta-rapp pseudo was? I can't seem to find it anywhere on Google."

Submitted by "Big Banana" Bob Loblaw, 05 March 2013