The WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders attempted to give a nod to their past when they unveiled their new mascot – but some are saying it plays into racially discriminatory notions of those with Middle Eastern heritage.
Teams revisit their past all the time when promoting themselves via a redesign of their jersey, logo or mascot, but the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders have made a sizeable mistake in doing so this season.
To wit: the Raiders unveiled their new mascot this week – an Arabian “raider” character named “Boston Raider” after a tie-in to an area pizza sponsor – which is based on their original logo from the early 1980s:
Our new mascot Boston Raider is a throwback to our original logo! pic.twitter.com/3P6x9694o3
— PrinceAlbert Raiders (@PARaidersHockey) November 15, 2014
The new mascot’s appearance does not sit well with a number of people who believe it stereotypes those of Middle Eastern heritage. Rhonda Rosenberg, the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan’s executive director, told the Canadian Press she found it plays into discriminatory views of people from the region.
“The idea of a somewhat violent Muslim man is a stereotype that is really difficult for a lot of people to live with,” Rosenberg said. “Mascots are not where we should be depicting cultural groups of people. We just need to look at what values and ideas are being put forward, and whether they are really embodying what we want to be sharing.”
A team spokesman said the franchise never intended to offend anyone, nor does it believe the mascot to be “a negative representation of Middle Eastern people and their culture”. They might not, but in this day and age where society is rightfully trying to be respectful toward all ethnicities, the Raiders’ new mascot is a mistake. What may have been seen as appropriate decades ago isn’t always appropriate today; this is why a song like Ray Stevens’ “Ahab The Arab” – a top five radio hit when it was released in 1962 – is seen as patently offensive now.
Eras and tastes change, and sometimes the past is better left where it is. And if the Raiders are smart, they’ll send their new mascot to join former AHL mascot “Scorch” in the scrapyard.