The Notre Dame Fighting Irish represent one of the most well-known brands in all of sports. But a recent survey found the mascot to be one of the most offensive in the country.
Yes, the leprechaun ranked as the fourth-most offensive mascot in college football. The three that ranked above the leprechaun are all related to Native American tribes. They were San Diego State’s Aztec Warrior, Florida State’s Osceola and Renegade and Hawaii’s Vili the Warrior. Quality Logo Products, a sports apparel company, conducted the survey.
Notre Dame, one of college football’s blue bloods, didn’t like its ranking. In a statement sent to the Indianapolis Star, a school spokesman said:
“It is worth noting … that there is no comparison between Notre Dame’s nickname and mascot and the Indian and warrior names (and) mascots used by other institutions such as the NFL team formerly known as the Redskins. None of these institutions were founded or named by Native Americans who sought to highlight their heritage by using names and symbols associated with their people.”
Past Notre Dame Mascots Were ‘Catholics’ and ‘Ramblers’
Notre Dame fielded its first college football team in 1887. And the athletic department isn’t even certain when the school adopted the Fighting Irish as its mascot. According to the football media guide, one theory says Notre Dame became the Fighting Irish at halftime of an 1899 game against Northwestern. Wildcat fans chanted “Kill the Fighting Irish.” (Notre Dame was up, 5-0).
School history also says the Fighting Irish came about via a lockerroom speech. The program is famous for those. In this case, a teammate grew frustrated by how Notre Dame was playing against Michigan. This was in 1909. The teammate yelled ““What’s the matter with you guys? You’re all Irish and you’re not fighting worth a lick.” The media guide pointed out that Irish names like Dolan, Kelly, Glynn, Duffy and Ryan were all over the roster.
Journalist Francis Wallace, a Notre Dame alum, popularized “Fighting Irish” in his New York Daily News columns in the 1920s. Before that, Notre Dame competed as the “Catholics” or “Ramblers.”
Notre Dame officially adopted the name in 1927.
A number of mascots that were related to Native Americans have changed. The mascots represented teams on all levels, from high schools to the pros and for sports other than football.
In a 2018 column for the Wall Street Journal, ESPN anchor Max Kellerman made the case for Notre Dame changing from the Fighting Irish. Kellerman likened the mascot to Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo. And Cleveland got rid of that mascot.
“Many Irish-Americans are not offended, but many are,” Kellerman said in a Wall Street Journal article. “Should that also change? The answer is yes. Unequivocally yes. Pernicious, negative stereotypes of marginalized people that offend, even some among them, should be changed.”