DANVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA – Owner Fran Widener of the South Carolina Minor League baseball Danville Darkies is refusing to change the team’s name even as pressure mounts to switch to a name that is more, as the owner proclaims, “politically correct”. In a lengthy letter to season ticket holders, Widener explained:
“Our franchise has a great history, tradition, and legacy representing our proud alumni and many fans statewide. We are proud of our team and the passion of our loyal fans. Our fans sing “Go Git Em, Darkies” in celebration at every Darkies game. They speak proudly of “Darkie Nation” in honor of a sports team they love.
So when I consider the Danville Darkies name, I think of what it stands for. I think of the Danville Darkies traditions and pride I want to share with my children, just as my father shared with me — and just as you have shared with your family and friends. And I know that many of our fans are indeed black folks and have come to this park for years to root for the Darkies just like everyone else, though there was that unfortunate period of time when they had their own special entrance.
I respect the opinions of those who disagree. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn. Some think that “Darkies” is a slur. But I disagree. In fact, I think the term is actually a tribute to the laboring spirit of those great Americans who helped, albeit against their will, to build the agricultural base of this great nation. We are honoring their strength of being able to toil for hours and hours on end. I think it’s quite flattering, really. I’ve taken a poll of most of my friends, and not one of them has a problem with the name “Darkies”. Management even approached our African American clubhouse janitor and asked him if he was offended, and he said “um..no..it’s ok, I guess”. It’s hard to argue with data like this.
So we cannot ignore our 101 year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as African Americans throughout the country. After 101 years, the team name “Darkies” continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, who the other guys are, never mind who might have kept whom against their will, and who we want to be in the years to come. Perhaps the people of today could take a lesson from back then when things sure were a lot easier for most of us. Our mascot , “Darkie Boy”, embodies the spirit of getting to work on time, sacrificing your all, staying late, and not complaining. That’s what we’re trying to honor here.
We are Darkies Nation and we owe it to our fans and coaches and players, past and present, to preserve that heritage.”
Reverend Jesse Jackson has attempted to organize a boycott of team merchandise to hit the team where it hurts. If successful, it could deprive the team of at least $38 per week. He plans to keep up the pressure until the owner relents.