The Name Is the Name of the Game

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Every day during third period, morning announcements ring throughout the school. The memos often include news about a sports team, ranging from the girls’ soccer team making history in the playoffs to the football team’s homecoming win. While sports aren’t paramount at Stuyvesant, they are certainly an important element of our school community in encouraging spirit and unity. In direct contrast to the attitudes sports teams foster in their players, the identity of Stuyvesant is fragmented when it comes to athletics.

At Stuyvesant, there are a variety of sports team names: our football team is called the Peglegs while our girls’ softball team is named the Renegades. However, some of these team names are ambiguous, problematic, or even degrading. For example, the girls’ soccer team is named the Mimbas. For many, it may seem unclear what the word even means. In doing a quick Google search, the definition of “Mimba” ranges from “a female day name for Saturday” to “pregnancy” in Swahili. While the term “Mimba” may have held significance for team members at some point in the past, the name has entirely lost its meaning and leaves current students and team members confused as to what their mascot represents.

Certain team names are downright demeaning. For example, the girls’ volleyball team is named the Vixens while the boys’ volleyball team is the Beasts. The word Vixen has a clearly gendered connotation, referring to a woman who is typically viewed as spirited and sexually attractive. When stacked up in comparison to the “Beasts,” the issue becomes even clearer.

It’s evident that it is time to change these team names. In the professional sports world, many teams have recently rebranded to have more appropriate names. For example, the Washington Football Team recently changed from the problematic Washington Redskins; the fact that a team could hold this name, a slur against Native Americans, unchecked for so long is alarming. Another example is baseball’s Cleveland Indians, who will be dropping their nickname and their Chief Wahoo mascot to instead be called Cleveland Guardians. Names have power: not only are they central to a team’s identity, but names represent the cities, people, and communities that athletes play for.

We all know that our school name, Stuyvesant, named after Peter Stuyvesant, is far from representative of our school’s values and community, as the figure himself is best known for his policies to limit religious freedom, for organizing Manhattan’s first public slave auction, and for being one of the largest private slave owners in the Northeast. Honoring Peter Stuyvesant’s legacy in our team names, such as the Peglegs, simply continues to give him a larger role in the school. It’s time for Stuyvesant to join the movement to rethink its sports team names.

Despite the small subset of Stuyvesant for which a team’s name has a deep significance, Stuyvesant’s sports represent the school as a whole and a name is an important part of any team identity. The names we give our teams should be ones we’re proud to shout at games, plaster on posters, and celebrate. They should create a sense of unity and spirit at Stuyvesant, which is currently difficult given their current disjointed nature. Though the ultimate decision to change a name is up to the teams themselves, it is important to recognize the connotations behind a name. Stuyvesant should catch up to modern-day standards with our teams’ names like so many other sports teams and schools have done. That way, we can continue to build a united and passionate school environment.