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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Primaries and Tornadoes: The Tricks of Naming

The new Worcester Can-Am League franchise is wrestling with its first public controversy: the name it has chosen for the team - the Tornadoes. According to the AP, some Worcester area residents think the name is disrespectful of the 94 people killed in the famous tornado which ripped through Worcester over 50 years ago.
According to the AP, Tornadoes general manager Mike Lieberman said most of the feedback on the name has been positive and that the choice "by no means trivializes a tragic event,...but rather celebrates how the people of Worcester have prevailed and prospered in the years since." Spin city, Mike. [It was only a year ago that the previous EL AA New Haven Ravens made a glaring public faux pas in their relocation to Manchester N.H. by initially selecting the name "New Hampshire Primaries,"a name selection which was greeted by howls of public protest - ultimately forcing the team to withdraw the name within a week and start over (the team is now called the Fisher Cats).

There are other precedents for teams using such naming conventions or relationships; the most obvious is the Miami Hurricanes, again a situation where tragedy is recalled by the naming exercise. We can't forget that many Native American organizations and others still abhor the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, and Washington Redskins names, logos, or inferences.

Yet, Worcester residents with a connection to the past can understandably be upset. Would we find it in good taste to name a team from Johnstown PA the "Wave?"

The past aside, the Tornadoes name is as perfectly good as any other I suppose. In this PC era it is hard to please everybody, yet that is not an excuse either. The Tornadoes management might want to find a PR strategy for diffusing this issue so it doesn't derail the team's efforts to get off to a good start in the local market.