By Jason Menard
Yesterday was supposed to be a day of excitement for London baseball fans. Unfortunately, a combination of spectacularly poor judgement and an unwillingness to be honest about a mistake has turned what should have been the easiest home run in franchise history into a potentially franchise-threatening stumble out of the batter’s box for the London Rippers.
Reaction was swift and almost universally negative towards the Rippers’ name and logo. The obvious reference to Jack the Ripper is in poor taste; the fact that it was announced on a day where many were openly showing their support of ending violence against women is deplorable. But the continued denial of any “Jack the Ripper” tie is absolutely insulting.
And, of course, the group that sees political correctness in every concern has already made themselves heard. This is compounded by the media’s lazy reporting bringing their go-to comment, London Abused Women’s Centre director Megan Walker, into the fray. She’s a polarizing figure in the community – and some, sadly but understandably — will automatically dismiss issues that are tied to her.
Listen, 99.99999% of the time, I’m all with the “lighten up and laugh” movement. But come on, if the team just came out and said, “We’ve based our mascot and team name on Jack the Ripper” I’d have more respect for them. We can all deal with that. But don’t treat us like morons and say, “He’s not Jack the Ripper… he’s Diamond Jack the Ripper!” like a cutesy name will make it better. And don’t add an old English-style top hat, the “lurking in the park” mess of an ad campaign, and try to pass it off as anything else.
Before you go all hog-crazy and jump off the deep end here – which is the norm in discussions like this, unfortunately – no one is saying that going to a baseball game or supporting a baseball team makes you a supporter of killing women. But you would think marketing departments would know better?
And for those who think this is much ado about nothing, how would you feel about watching a team called the London Gas Chambers? They could even have a cute mascot with a little Charlie Chaplin moustache. I’ll even invent the back story: Dolph (the mascot’s name, of course) is a kid who used to do science projects in gas chambers (not eugenics, of course, just… experiments. Then, one day, it all blew up and gave him incredible baseball skills!”
Is that OK? Closer to home, what if we so obviously tied a team to Paul Bernardo? Serial killer of women, horrible crimes? Would that be acceptable if we made up a cutesy back story? How about Chucky “Cheese” Manson? Jojo, the Psychic Zodiac Killer? Are they any better than Diamond Jack the Ripper?
No, it’s not the end of the world, but the London Rippers name is a spectacularly bad idea.
And it’s just being made worse by the fact that, to date, no one’s come out and apologized for this travesty. We’re a forgiving society; just come out and say, “You know, we made a mistake. We didn’t realize how negatively this image and campaign would be perceived in the community and we want to make this a team that all Londoners can embrace and support.”
Then come up with a new team name (maybe open it up to the public. But whatever you do, don’t hire that same agency – whomever they are), fork over a sizeable donation to the women’s charity of your choice, and move on with life. Instead, this denial and misdirection is leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
Why not pick a name that has some significance to the city of London, Ontario– not England? Why not be clever like the old London Werewolves were (think the Warren Zevon song)? Do something positive with the opportunity that’s here.
It’s been proven over and over that not all publicity is good publicity. If not handled well, this could put the team in a serious 0-2 hole right from the start. And, so far, all the team has shown its ability to swing and miss.
To win back the fans and the general public, the team needs to rip one out of the ballpark – and that starts with ditching the Rippers’ name.