By Kate Dolan
In the wake of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police in May and the ensuing protests of police violence and racism that have swept the globe, there has been renewed scrutiny of structural racism in every aspect of American life.
One local example has been the logo of the Philadelphia Cricket Club, which includes the depiction of a Native American head hovering above a cricket bat and a set of golf clubs. Like other institutions that have used similar images, calls have been made to revise those images. For the cricket club, those calls are coming from both outside of the organization and within.
In July, 189 members of the cricket club requested the prompt removal of the club’s logo.
“The logo is an example of long-ago discredited ideas of ‘noble savagery’ that helped justify the removal and extermination of native peoples,” reads a July 24 letter addressed to the club’s leadership and states that “keeping the logo serves as a regressive and inflammatory choice of its own.”
The club, which has operated since 1854 and has locations in Chestnut Hill and Flourtown, responded to membership with a statement on July 30 from club President F. John White, in which he acknowledges the “polarizing issue.”
“As you probably imagine, we have received a lot of correspondence from members on both sides of this issue who are equally passionate about their respective views,” White wrote. The statement explained that the club is currently focused on managing daily operations through the “ever-shifting environment” caused by Covid-19 and ensuring that daily operations are executed safely.
“We will not make any decisions in the heat of the moment and will take as long as necessary to assess and resolve this important issue,” read the statement.
Eliza Griswold, a club member and one of the letter’s originators, says the list is growing. Over 200 members have now signed on and many more have written their own emails after White invited members to email him personally in the club’s statement.
“What surprised us most was the number of people we didn’t know reaching out to tell stories of how the logo has presented problems morally and practically for them and their families said Griswold, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, poet and 'New Yorker' contributor who grew up in Chestnut Hill as the daughter of a past rector at St. Martins. Her father, Frank Griswold, went on to serve as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
“There were kids and adults who refused to wear it or to play sports where it was prevalent as a team logo and were embarrassed to drive in past the sign—especially when protesters began to gather outside,” said Griswold. “Others didn’t want to hold major family events at the club or bring professional associates.”
The letter presents several arguments for the logo’s removal, one of which maintains that the logo is offensive. It quotes a member of the Lenni Lenape Nation, refuting what the letter calls “a myth:” the idea that the logo pays homage.
“Having such mascots is NO HONOR! It is an INSULT!” states the letter. The letter also discredits the accuracy of the depiction which includes a headdress of a “‘Plains Indian’ from the Midwestern and Western states,” stating that the Lenni Lenape, the indigenous people of Southeastern Pennsylvania, did not wear feathered headdresses.
No one at the club could be reached for comment.
The letter also notes the increasing scrutiny of similar logos in the region and nationally.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ruled in 2019 that Neshaminy Creek High School in Langhorne not use Native American imagery in its logos, although the name of its sports teams as the “Redskins” remains. The NFL’s Washington D.C. team rebranded this year, removing its Native American logo and its former name of the Redskins. The letter points out both to PCC leadership.
“There are fewer and fewer institutions interested in maintaining this kind of offensive mascot, and PCC should not strive to be in this minority,” reads the letter.
George McNeely, a PCC member and frequent contributor to the Local, said “a number of members had not been happy with the logo for a much longer period of time.” McNeely wrote an article last month to discover the logo’s origins, after people at the club on both sides expressed an interest in the history. The article offers history of the club’s founding but reveals that little is known about how the logo came to be.
Griswold points out that “whatever the mysterious intentions of the logo, which were likely an attempt to honor native peoples, they are secondary to the problems the logo poses today.”
In 2020, there are nationwide protests calling for racial equality, urgent social change and accountability. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed racial and socioeconomic inequalities in the United States.
In response to the unrest, the Chestnut Hill’s Institutional Leader’s group, made up of 13 organizations, released a statement, titled “Racial Equity is the Only Path,” committing to “the elimination of racism” and the “dismantling of power imbalances where they exist, and institutional accountability within our organizations.” Each organization jointly signed, the Philadelphia Cricket Club among them.
"The protests that followed the killing of George Floyd inspired conversations about the issue,” said McNeely. “Then when the Cricket Club signed onto the joint statement with other neighborhood non-profits, a number of members felt strongly that the Club’s words rang hollow because of the logo. So that galvanized a number of members into action.”
Members who signed the letter say the logo does not reflect the club as it currently is or how it’s changed over time. On the other side, there is an argument that the logo is about upholding tradition.
John Jeka is a new member, and lives on St. Martins, close to the Chestnut Hill club.
“Some argue that it has been the logo of PCC for many years and a tradition that should be respected,” Jeka said. “I would respond that this is the same reasoning that southern leaders/politicians used to resist integration in the early 1960s. Traditions are important, but a tradition that misrepresents a group of people whose history in our country is genocide needs to be retired.
“A new logo that better represents the values of the membership of PCC would be a step forward,” he said.
White informed membership in the statement that the board will address the issue, but would not meet with members in-person as requested at the time being, writing, “We do not think it would be productive at this time to host such a potentially adversarial meeting, even if it were achievable under Covid-19 restrictions.”
White invited members to email him personally. In the meantime, the church next door to the club in Chestnut Hill, St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, sent a letter in June requesting the logo be removed.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the contents of that letter, which was signed by St. Martin-in-the-Fields rector, Rev. Jarett Kerbel.
“[F]or a club founded for white Protestant elites during the height of the genocide against Native peoples to continue with this logo is to deny our horrific past We ask you to retire the offensive logo and replace it with something more benign.”
Kerbel could not be reached for further comment.
In the meantime, the members of PCC who signed the letter await the board’s deliberation.
"We are going to keep up the pressure and more members are signing onto the petition each week,” McNeely said. “We are in a waiting period now, but we trust that is going to keep considering this and is not just hoping that the issue will go away.”