Fourteen years ago, Terrell Owens, a star wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, caught a touchdown pass in a game against the Dallas Cowboys and celebrated by running from the end zone to the 50-yard line where he posed on the giant Cowboy star.
Seconds later, Cowboys player George Teague leveled Owens, knocking him off the team logo.
Owens later explained that he planned the touchdown celebration days before the game. He was running out of the unique celebrations but “I wasn’t doing it to taunt anyone by it, I was just coming here to pay my respect,” Owens said.
I don’t believe Terrell, but I’ll always remember the game.
Just like I remember the outcry on social media when Justin Beber inadvertently stood on the Blackhawks Indian head logo while posing with the Stanley Cup in the Hawks locker room.
The Blackhawks, like most NHL teams, have an unwritten rule that no one is permitted to step on the logo in the dressing room. Players have been known to scold people for accidentally or purposely stepping or standing on it.
Heck, I recently saw a Montreal Canadians player chastise his mother for standing on the team logo during an NHL Network special about the Canadians’ mom’s weekend.
These traditions may seem silly. After all, it’s only the Cowboys blue star painted at the center of the football field or the Blackhawks’ Indian head logo emblazoned on the locker room carpet.
Then again, there’s a lot of tradition behind those logos. They recall team history, great players and special moments. They embody an organization—players, fans, memories, traditions.
These symbols and the respect they deserve aren’t limited to sports. Apparently, no one taught that lesson to the members of the Woodstock girls’ basketball team.
Recently, the team won the regional title after defeating rival Woodstock North at Landers Pavilion at Marian Central Catholic High School.
Following the win, the girls affixed a Barbie doll—the team’s symbol for girl power—to a crucifix in the gym. The photo, which made the rounds on social media, shows the team smiling and pointing at the crucifix.
It was a poor decision, not well thought out by any means. And the idea of a Barbie doll as symbol for girl power also seems odd, but that’s a topic for another column.
The point is, the team hung a doll on one of the most important symbols of the Catholic faith and proceeded to celebrate their win. You would think at least one of the 13 girls in the photo would have the good sense to think the move was disrespectful.
You would think a coach, parent, moderator; anyone connected to the team would stop the girls. You would be wrong.
Woodstock High School Activities and Athletic Director Glen Wilson issued an apology after the image surfaced on social media, saying the team is “sincerely regretful.”
“Our intent was certainly not to insult, nor denigrate, Marian Central and its family.”
The apology should have stopped right there.
The school added another sentence that changed the whole dynamic.
“We apologize the act could solicit a perception of disrespect to faith, one’s school or the community they represent.”
It’s always interesting to read carefully worded apologies issued by individuals or organizations after they make a serious misstep.
For example, Woodstock apologies for an act that “could solicit a perception of disrespect to faith…”
Those are weasel words. They are disingenuous and unnecessary. Worse yet, the wording places the onus on the persons who were offended. It’s like saying, “I’m sorry if you were offended.”
Please understand, there was no perception of disrespect to the faith. The team disrespected the Catholic faith inside a Catholic school. Plain and simple.
The apology also said, “The team’s symbol of ‘girl power’ was used in an inappropriate manner.”
Forget the team’s symbol for a moment. It’s only a doll. Lots of teams use some sort of object around which to rally. Several years ago, Notre Dame football players used a big piece of chain to symbolize team unity. Whatever works.
The focus needs to be on the girls. This is a varsity team comprised of juniors and seniors, girls who are old enough to know better.
Marian Central and Woodstock high schools have decided to let the athletic departments handle the issue. How they do that, I do not know. But this is a teaching moment that extends well beyond the religion. Here’s hoping both schools take advantage of it.