You don't need me to remind you that the NFL has gone through a seismic cultural shift in the last few years. Or to list the examples. Suffice to say that in the last two years alone, pro football scheduled a one man job fair for the purpose of getting Colin Kaepernick hired, paid Jay-Z to make the Super Bowl halftime show cool again, made protests a part of their marketing and forced a name change in Washington.
So it was inevitable that the Super Bowl would bring about a conversation about one of the team's problematic nickname. Just not the one you might have thought.
On Super Bowl Sunday, the Washington Post ran a piece explaining the difficult historic legacy of the name "Buccaneers."
When the National Football League expanded to 28 teams in 1973, the league awarded Tampa an expansion team, prompting a name-the-team contest in 1975. “Buccaneers” won, a reference to the pirates who frequented the coasts of Florida in the 17th and 18th centuries. …
Yet, while this celebration of piracy seems like innocent fun and pride in a local culture, there is danger in romanticizing ruthless cutthroats who created a crisis in world trade when they captured and plundered thousands of ships on Atlantic trade routes between the Americas, Africa and Great Britain. Why? Because it takes these murderous thieves who did terrible things — like locking women and children in a burning church — and makes them a symbol of freedom and adventure, erasing their wicked deeds from historical memory. These were men (and women) who willingly participated in murder, torture and the brutal enslavement of Africans and Indigenous peoples. …
Perhaps time has dulled us to the atrocities committed by these 17th and 18th century outlaws. … Pirates, then, are seen as romantic heroes — the underdogs fighting the establishment — whom historian Marcus Rediker refers to as proto-democratic, egalitarian and multicultural.
Should we celebrate their complicated legacy? It’s a question Tampa Bay has to contend with.
So there you have it, Tampa Bay. Hope you're proud of yourselves. You might have felt really smug when Chiefs fans were doing the tomahawk chant during that brief period of time when they still had something to cheer about. But you were the ones actually celebrating the brutality and oppression of historically victimized people. By promoting buccaneer culture, you disrespect the thousands of 17th and 18th century victims of pirate violence. Every time you fire a blast at Raymond James, you dishonor the sailors and soldiers who were killed by pirate cannon fire. Your very logo contains the swords that were pointed at the backs of innocents as they were forced to walk the plank.
And this goes not just for the Buccaneers, but to all who promote pirate culture. The Pittsburgh Pirates. Themed kids' birthday parties. Sexy Halloween costumes. "Treasure Island." Elton John singing about "Pretty eyes, pirate smile."
And saving the worst for last, the Disney Corporation. Between "Peter Pan" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" rides and movies, they've done more to promote this legacy of violence among generations of young people than anyone. And made literally billions of dollars doing so.
So I stand with my brothers and sisters at the Washington Post in opposing this despicable and hateful team nickname. As well as "Talk Like a Pirate Day." Patchy the Pirate from "Spongebob." All kids jokes that begin with "What's a pirate's favorite letter?" The Sea Shanties that are trending on TikTok (because while they were not exclusive to buccaneers, they were most definitely pirate-adjacent). And really anything in our popular culture that hints at buckles being swashed in any manner. Thank you, WaPo, for the history lesson. I look forward to seeing the Tampa Bay Football Team defend its title next year.