Mayor says he warned Ottawa TomaHawks about name

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he warned the city's new basketball team about the controversial TomaHawks name and advised them to consult with the First Nations community.

New team announces it's changing its name after public outcry

RAW Dropping the TomaHawks name


8 years ago
Ottawa NBL franchise co-owner Gus Takkale said the team will come up with a new name the community can embrace. 1:27

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he warned the city's new basketball team about the controversial TomaHawks name and advised them to consult with the First Nations community.

"Obviously they did not do the kind of consultation that they should have done, and they certainly spoke with me and spoke with my office before the launch, and I strongly suggested that they have proper consultations with First Nations, and particularly the Algonquins of Ontario," said Watson.

"That didn't happen, and the issue blew up on them, and I'm glad they made a decision as quickly as they did to reverse themselves," he said.

Watson's comments came the same day the basketball team's co-owner announced on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning that the name TomaHawks will be changed after an outcry from Ottawa's aboriginal community.

The new basketball franchise had unveiled its team name and logo Tuesday but withdrew the name after criticism.

Bytown Sports and Entertainment president Gus Takkale told Robyn Bresnahan he wants his fledgling sports team to respect the community they represent.

"Yes, we are changing the name," said Takkale. "At the end of the day, we want to do the right thing for our community."

"We don't want to connect our brand like that," he said.

'They're not off to a great start'

The team unveiled the name Tuesday at a news conference at Ottawa city hall. The mayor said he chose not to attend.

"I didn't show up because, one, I didn't know if I was going to get back from another event, but secondly, I was not supportive of the name that they had brought forward, and I wasn't supportive of the fact that they hadn't done the proper consultation," said Watson.

"I want the team to survive and thrive, and I think it's a great addition to the city, but they're not off to a great start. They're going to have to regroup, and I think obviously they're going to choose a new name, and hopefully it's going to be one that's more acceptable," he said.

Ian Campeau — an aboriginal Canadian and a DJ with local group A Tribe Called Red —  was also in the CBC Ottawa studio at the time. He applauded the move and said it showed leadership.

Campeau had said he was indignant on Tuesday when the team name was unveiled.

Team named for basketball dunk

"It sets Ottawa back almost thirty years, when the NCAA is on its way to remove names like this. Here we are starting new teams with names like TomaHawk, it's … it's backwards," he had said a day earlier.

Takkale had defended the name, saying it was not meant to appropriate First Nations culture. He said they took the name from a type of slam dunk in basketball, not from the axe used by First Nations people, and noted that the logo was a basketball with wings.

Takkale said he had consulted with aboriginal groups before unveiling the logo and name, but declined to specify on Ottawa Morning with whom he had consulted.

The team's inaugural season is to begin in November at Scotiabank Place. The league also features teams from Windsor, London, Oshawa, Montreal, Moncton, Saint John, Halifax and Summerside.