In July of 2020, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Travis Diener let fly from the corner of the court at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, and cashed a $1 million check for Golden Eagles, the team of Marquette men’s basketball alumni (and friends) as the MU guys won The Basketball Tournament in their fifth attempt at claiming the winner-take-all prize.
Let’s watch again, because we’re going to get into some pretty serious stuff in a minute, and some levity to start will be nice.
On May 24, 2021, the MU alumni team announced a rebranding. I’m not going to disagree with the concept of a rebranding, as Golden Eagles Alumni was a little bit of a mouthful and also not very interesting, and shortening the whole thing to just Golden Eagles wasn’t an improvement on the interesting aspect.
I’m just going to show you what they — I presume general manager Dan Fitzgerald and head coach Joe Chapman? — landed on for the rebranding, let you react to it, and then we’ll get into what we need to get into.
New Team Name: The Ultimate Warriors.
Here’s the new official team logo, saved from the tweet above for posterity’s sake, juuuuuust in case:
First things first: None of what I’m about to say has anything to do with attaching the Warriors nickname to a Marquette-related venture. I will say it’s weird that whoever is making the decisions for the alumni team to specifically appeal to people north of 45 years old by making reference to a nickname that the university and athletic department hasn’t used since 1994.
Okay, let’s move on.
Jim Hellwig was a professional wrestler most famous for his run as The Ultimate Warrior in the World Wrestling Federation between 1987 and 1992. He defeated The Honky Tonk Man to win the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam in 1988, defeated Rick Rude to regain the IC title from Rude at SummerSlam 1989, and then held that belt up through WrestleMania VI when he defeated Hulk Hogan in a title vs title match where Hogan’s WWF Championship was also on the line. He vacated the Intercontinental title as a result of winning the WWF Championship, and would hold the WWF title until January of 1991, when he was defeated by Sgt. Slaughter.
I’m not just drawing a connection between the name that the MU alumni team has elected to adopt here in 2021 and the famous pro wrestler because I happen to be a fan of professional wrestling. The eagle head and wings in the alumni team logo morph into Ultimate Warrior’s famous facepaint pattern as your eyes move down the logo, just in familiar blue, gold, and Championship Blue colors. There’s even white eye shapes exactly where Ultimate Warrior’s eyes would be in the facepaint pattern in the logo. This name and logo rebranding is specifically designed to be a reference/callback/whatever else you want to call it to the pro wrestler.
This is a problem.
First, there’s the legal aspect to it. I don’t know exactly the ins and outs of everything here, but what I do know is that Jim Hellwig legally changed his name to Warrior in 1993. This was due to an ongoing battle with the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) over the ownership of the Ultimate Warrior name. If Vince McMahon was willing to get into legal jousts over the name and logo with the man who actually portrayed the character on TV — and courts eventually ruled in Hellwig’s favor, but you see my point here — I don’t think a semi-pro basketball team is going to just get to use the name and logo freely like this.
Then there’s..... well. Here. Go read this 2017 article from Vice titled “WWE is Whitewashing The Ultimate Warrior’s Bigoted Past.” It’s coming up on four years old, but it’s everything I would have written on this topic if Rob Rousseau didn’t already write it. Vice was talking about WWE using The Ultimate Warrior as part of the company’s charity endeavors, so the point is to be critical of WWE for that. It all still works when talking about using The Ultimate Warrior as the iconography and namesake for the Marquette alumni team. Along the way, the Vice article collects what are only small sections of merely some of Hellwig’s racist and homophobic diatribes, using his distaste for Hurricane Katrina victims, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., people who protested a speaking engagement that he had at DePaul University of all places, and Heath Ledger, a dead man who once portrayed a gay man in a movie years earlier, as examples of the kinds of trash that Hellwig espoused both on his personal website and on public speaking appearances like the aforementioned one at DePaul.
If you run through some Google searches for a bit — something that maybe you should do before you decide to name something after him — you can find some more examples of the kinds of racist and homophobic things that Jim Hellwig, aka The Ultimate Warrior, spoke about and supported. Things that are outlandish at best and horrifying at worst.
Let’s just be honest about it: An entity that identifies itself as connected to Marquette can not even appear support Jim Hellwig by honoring him with their name and logo.
So here we are. It’s been over three hours since the alumni team Twitter posted the logo and changed their user picture and username.... and it’s all still there. I haven’t been the only one to point out on the Twitter machine that this is a horrible idea, but it’s still there. If the immediate “this ain’t it, chief” reaction didn’t get the message across, then this blog post probably isn’t either.
This presents us with a problem regarding the alumni team. On one hand, I like the guys on the alumni team, I like TBT, and if we’re being honest, it’s nice to have basketball things to talk about in the summer. On the other hand, the new name and logo is truly reprehensible and can not be supported.
Here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to ignore it. You’ll still get TBT coverage of the team here on AE, but we’re just going to ignore the team name and logo. As far as this website is concerned going forward, the TBT team name is still Golden Eagles Alumni. We’ll be happy to acknowledge an actual good new team name if one comes down the pike at some point.