Chatham-Kent IBL officials. Pictured with Team President Dom Dinelle (middle), left to right: Allan Cameron, Mathew Speed, Laura Kalika and Gregg Ross. (Via Chatham-Kent IBL Baseball Club Twitter)Chatham-Kent IBL officials. Pictured with Team President Dom Dinelle (middle), left to right: Allan Cameron, Mathew Speed, Laura Kalika and Gregg Ross. (Via Chatham-Kent IBL Baseball Club Twitter)

Chatham-Kent IBL franchise dropping "Blackbirds" name following feedback

Chatham-Kent's new Intercounty Baseball League franchise is looking for a different team name, just three days after announcing it would be known as the Chatham-Kent Blackbirds.

On Friday morning, the organization unveiled that the team would be named the Chatham-Kent Blackbirds, following a Name The Team Contest.

However, on Monday morning, the Chatham-Kent IBL Baseball Club sent out a media release announcing that the franchise is dropping the "Blackbirds" name, effective immediately.

“The Chatham-Kent IBL club has made plans to change its name to better reflect the diverse cultural history of the community," CK IBL officials said. "As an organization, we welcome all conversations and discussions that help us to grow, foster and nurture our team in a manner that evokes a feeling of inclusion and pride consistent with the community and the rich tradition of baseball. We regret any harm the chosen name may have caused.”

On Friday, Team Owner and President Dom Dinelle said 600 entries with more than 400 names were submitted in the online Name That Team Contest. The "Blackbirds" name was chosen out of five finalists. Other names in the running were CK Legends, CK Wheat Kings, CK North Stars and CK Field Kings.

Dinelle said the name was picked because of the bird's popularity throughout Chatham-Kent and he believed a bird would be a fun mascot.

According to organization officials, the decision to change the name was made following community feedback surrounding the historical derogatory use of the term “blackbird” and “blackbirding” that may be harmful to some members of our community.

"Historically, the term “blackbirding” involves the coercion of people through deception or kidnapping to work as slaves or poorly paid labourers in countries distant from their native land," read the media release. "Management and ownership thank our valued community members for bringing these details to their attention and wish to thank the club’s executive for acting quickly to make a change."

Caress Lee Carpenter was one member of the group which came up with the "Blackbirds" name. Following the news of the name change, Carpenter said in an emailed statement to CK News Today that she wholeheartedly supports Chatham-Kent IBL Baseball in the changing of the name, and any future steps that they take to ensure that the team and league are inclusive

"I would consider myself decently educated when it comes to Black History; I have worked alongside and have even had the incredible opportunity to be employed by a local Black History organization," she said. "I can genuinely say that I had never read or heard about the term “Blackbirding” before it was brought to my attention after the naming of the new team. And, although it was not my intent to reference a term with connections to slavery, it is important that I recognize that the intent does not negate the impact."

Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society & Black Mecca Museum Executive Director Samantha Meredith said the museum was not consulted about the name before it was unveiled to the public.

"We were made aware of it early Monday morning," said Meredith. "Once it was brought to their attention, they did work very quickly to right the wrong. There was no ill will but now that they know better, they have to do better."

A new team name is expected to be announced soon. The Chatham-Kent IBL team is set to play its home opener in May of 2024.

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