Things Are More Moderner Than Before

The Charlotte Bobcats have finally reached an agreement with the Montana rancher who owned the rights to bobcats.com, thus ending Charlotte's municipal nightmare over whether or not their basketball team would get to use a site name even simpler than bobcatsbasketball.com (via Charlotte Observer). The Bobcats are not a franchise to parcel out dynamite scoops one at a time, though, so they also announced Tuesday that they'll be trotting out new uniforms, using a new secondary logo, and redesigning the court for next season. In the words of team president Fred Whitfield, these changed "are about us improving as franchise -- on and off the floor." I commend the Bobcats for these changes, but there's one more they should make if they want to make the jump from expansion team to legit franchise: dump Rufus Lynx, their mascot.

At the beginning of August, I wrote a series of posts on the East and West mascots and their fits for their franchises. They were almost entirely lighthearted and two of my favorite posts to write, if only because I got to see some insane mascots I didn't know much about. For instance, you haven't really lived until you've seen the insane dog that Indiana calls Bowser, or Philly's Hip Hop the Rabbit, or Orlando's Stuff the Magic Dragon. Rufus, on the other hand, is shocking on an entirely different, much less innocent level.

Put quite simply, Rufus Lynx is a racist mascot. From his stereotypical slave name to this picture of him in pimp garb, Rufus is as close to a minstrel show performer as you're going to find in an NBA arena. Given that the league consists of mostly black players playing in front of mostly white audiences, I'm shocked that such a clear racial issue hasn't been talked about before. When you factor in that Robert Johnson, the founder of BET, owns the Bobcats, the entire situation just boggles the mind.

In that first mascot post, I summarized most of my thoughts on Rufus, but I neglected to link to his bio, which has so many ridiculous statements that I won't be able to do them justice in a normal paragraph. Trust me, you want these in numbered format:

1) "Those of you who have witnessed this furry but lovable character out in the community can positively testify to his character..." The phrase "furry but lovable" suggests that his fur usually precludes him from being lovable. In a sense, Rufus is "one of the good ones." Additionally, it seems like those that have seen him need to reassure their friends that he's safe. Odd.
2) "This hip team player will even use his natural characteristics..." The first in a series of descriptions that make it seem like Rufus is incapable of learning skills. Everything is a natural advantage.
3) "Rufus likes to ambush his prey with short bursts of speed and agility" This probably wouldn't seem like a big deal if not for the other issues, but it becomes a problem given everything else we hear about Rufus. Again, it's all about athleticism. Also, I realize that the Bobcats want their mascot to seem fearsome, but I doubt that the Jazz make Bear out to be a predator.
4) "It’s well-known that bobcats can leap 10 feet without any problems, but Rufus Lynx reaches even higher heights." Out of all the tremendous athletes of his species, Rufus jumps the highest. Why emphasize his species?
5) "There is an unbelievable soft side to Rufus Lynx" This could either mean that Rufus has a huge soft side or that it's hard to believe that someone like Rufus could have a soft side. Take your pick -- the latter is obviously worse.
6) "At first glance, Rufus appears in his orange color fur, dark sunglasses and high-top sneakers. Underneath his exterior is the heart of a lion, the strength of 10 men and the greatest enthusiasm in the NBA." Carries a good message about looking deep inside of people, but why even focus on his appearance as being the first thing we should look at? Why is his fur so terrifying in the first place?
7) "HEIGHT We can’t measure him; he won’t stand still" I don't even know what to say about this one.
8) There are countless other comments on Rufus's natural abilities, but listing them would be a chore. Honestly, they might as well have said that he has extra fast-twitch muscles.

Now, to be fair, they do explain the name. The genus/species name for a bobcat is "lynx rufus," which means that they didn't just pick "Rufus" out of a hat. In fact, that's mostly why I don't think the Bobcats brass made a conscious decision to make Rufus as awful as he is. Yet that doesn't make all of this business okay. I might be reading a lot into Rufus Lynx, but I think there's something there.

In the midst of all this change in Charlotte, this is an easily correctable issue. Plenty of teams -- particularly those in the Southeast Division -- have insane, nonsensical mascots that work a hell of a lot better than Rufus. Charlotte could have a new mascot after ten minutes of brainstorming, and they'd fix a lot of potential problems. I promise it'll be easy. At the very least, they'll do better than this guy.


Ben Q. Rock said...

Re: the pimp picture.

Oh. My. God.

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