Notre Dame defends leprechaun mascot after it ranked fourth-most offensive in recent survey

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A survey conducted by Quality Logo Products ranked Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish leprechaun as the fourth-most offensive college football mascot, trailing only Osceola and Renegade of Florida State, the Aztec Warrior of San Diego State and Vili the Warrior of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

Most Offensive College Mascots in America  School 
1. Osceola and Renegade  Florida State University 
2. Aztec Warrior  San Diego State University
3. Vili the Warrior  University of Hawaii at Manoa 
4. Leprechaun  University of Notre Dame 
5. Pistol Pete  Oklahoma State University 
6. West Virginia Mountaineer  West Virginia University 
7. Hey Reb!  University of Nevada, Las Vegas 
8. Sparky the Sun Devil  Arizona State University 
9. Pistol Pete  New Mexico State University
10. Cavalier  University of Virginia 

When approached with the survey results by IndyStar, Notre Dame reportedly responded with an email that included a written statement — which is not available in entirety in the story — defending the leprechaun and its history. 

“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,” the school told IndyStar. “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.”

The university then said that Irish influence has been an integral part of the school since its founding, leading to its nickname. 

“Our symbols stand as celebratory representations of a genuine Irish heritage at Notre Dame,” the university said in the statement, “a heritage that we regard with respect, loyalty and affection.”

According to Notre Dame’s website, the origination of the “Fighting Irish” nickname has never been perfectly explained. One story that is mentioned on the university’s website and attributed in the IndyStar article is from 1899, when Northwestern students chanted “Kill the Fighting Irish” during a football game. 

Another suggestion is from a game against Michigan in 1909, when an unnamed player reportedly yelled to his teammates at halftime, “What’s the matter with you guys? You’re all Irish and you’re not fighting worth a lick.” Notre Dame won that game, and it is generally accepted by the university that the press coined the “Fighting Irish” nickname as a characterization of the school’s athletic teams. 

In its statement, Notre Dame said the leprechaun is “symbolic of the fighting Irish and intentionally a caricature” and that the leprechaun began in England as a disparaging symbol of Irish people. 

“Irish-Americans — including those at Notre Dame — again have turned back on former oppressors as a sign of celebration and triumph,” the university said. “In both the upraised fists of the leprechaun mascot and the use of the word “fighting,” the intent is to recognize the determination of the Irish people and, symbolically, the university’s athletes.”

The Fighting Irish mascot received notable criticism back in 2018, when ESPN’s Max Kellerman called on the university to move away from the leprechaun as the MLB’s Cleveland Indians did with their mascot, Chief Wahoo, before the 2019 season. 

 

The formerly-named Washington Redskins in the NFL also rebranded to the Washington Football Team in 2020 as part of ongoing controversy surrounding its Native American mascot.



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