When I first learned of the controversy attached to the nickname of London, Ontario’s new Frontier Baseball League team, I assumed it was because “Rippers” was being used in reference to the type of entertainment prevalent at a gentleman’s club. Before the virtuous among this blog’s readership begin chastising me for a filthy mind, it should be noted that we are talking about a city where a bawdy establishment called The Beef Baron makes its home.
Unfortunately, the reality is much worse. The London Rippers’ logo is in part comprised of a comic version of a 19th Century gentleman whose face is partially masked in an obvious connotation to Jack The Ripper. Well, perhaps obvious to everyone not named David Martin.
The team’s president claims that there’s absolutely no connection between the brand new Southern Ontario baseball club and London, England’s infamous 19th Century serial murderer of women.
The character’s name is Diamond Jack, a frustrated hockey player who found he could ‘rip’ the cover off baseballs. Despite his talent, teams grew weary of the expense of replacing balls so Diamond Jack decided to form his own team in London, Ontario.
It’s fascinating that Diamond Jack apparently wears a top hat, dresses in a long coat and partially obscures his face in darkness. If the explanation is accurate, Martin appears to be an idiot, stunningly ignorant of the popular mythology surrounding the real life attacks against females. If it’s not accurate, he’s at best a liar, and at worst what the French would call a machiste.
To be perfectly honest, I think I’m more personally offended at Martin’s condescending and demeaning explanation than the actual name of the team. However, another common defense for the ill advised nickname has been a comparison to other racist and logos from professional sports. The very fact that a supporter would associate their brand with such examples should be all the explanation we need for understanding the moral grounding on which the logo stands. Poor past decisions should never justify future choices, otherwise history would be an ongoing repetition of awfulness. The whole purpose in remembering mistakes is to improve and further evolve so that they’re not committed again.
While the team’s logo and name may not naturally inspire offense for me, I can completely understand others taking umbrage at the blatant insensitivity of naming your team after something so clearly related to the abuse of women. Not helping matters in the least was that the logo and team name were revealed in London during a time designated by the city’s Abused Women’s Centre to raise awareness for violence against women.
London’s mayor Joe Fontana, has officially and pragmatically requested that the franchise reconsider its naming and logo choice:
While the team owner’s intention may not have been to draw a connection to Jack the Ripper, we believe this name is unfortunate particularly in light of our focus on ending woman abuse.
Despite municipal pleas, the team remains committed to the controversial name and playing baseball next summer alongside the Evansville Otters, Florence Freedom, Lake Erie Crushers, Southern Illinois Miners, Traverse City Beach Bums and Washington Wild Things as the only Canadian team in the Frontier Baseball League’s East Division.