The Chicago Blackhawks have banned fans from wearing headdresses as costumes at team events and home games at the United Center, the team announced Wednesday.
"We have always maintained an expectation that our fans uphold an atmosphere of respect, and after extensive and meaningful conversations with our Native American partners, we have decided to formalize those expectations," the team said in a statement. "Moving forward, headdresses will be prohibited for fans entering Blackhawks-sanctioned events or the United Center when Blackhawks home games resume. These symbols are sacred, traditionally reserved for leaders who have earned a place of great respect in their Tribe, and should not be generalized or used as a costume or for everyday wear."
The Blackhawks are taking part of the NHL's 24-team postseason in Edmonton. Chicago is scheduled to return to the United Center for home games next season, although the NHL is targeting December for a start date, and it is unclear when fans will be allowed to return.
Earlier this month, as the Washington football team decided to retire its nickname and the Cleveland Indians opened a review on theirs, the Blackhawks doubled down and said they wouldn't change their nickname. Chicago argued that its team name honors a Native American leader who has been an inspiration to generations.
"The Chicago Blackhawks name and logo symbolizes an important and historic person, Black Hawk of Illinois' Sac & Fox Nation, whose leadership and life has inspired generations of Native Americans, veterans and the public," Chicago said in a statement earlier this month. "We celebrate Black Hawk's legacy by offering ongoing reverent examples of Native American culture, traditions and contributions, providing a platform for genuine dialogue with local and national Native American groups. As the team's popularity grew over the past decade, so did that platform and our work with these important organizations. We recognize there is a fine line between respect and disrespect, and we commend other teams for their willingness to engage in that conversation. Moving forward, we are committed to raising the bar even higher to expand awareness of Black Hawk and the important contributions of all Native American people. "
On Wednesday, the Blackhawks outlined how they plan to advance the dialogue. The team said it is currently working on establishing a "state-of-the-art new wing" at Trickster Cultural Center, the only Native American owned and operated arts institution in the state of Illinois. The team also has partnered with the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History to create the Chicago Blackhawks Cultural Education Center, which will include Native American artifacts from "their vast collection and integrate a greater use of technology to create an interactive space for students throughout Chicagoland, Northwest Indiana and Southern Wisconsin to visit as part of their core curriculum."