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Oregon High School’s Teams Named After Political Party

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I got a note the other day from reader Taylor Workman, who had noticed this banner hanging in a park in Portland, Ore. He soon realized that it referred to Jefferson High School, a Portland school whose teams are called the Democrats.

I’ve never seen or heard of a team named after a political party until now. Of course, a “democrat” could also be construed, in the strictest sense of the term, to simply be someone who believes in democracy. But as you can see on the banner, the school’s cartoon mascot is a righteous-looking donkey, which is the symbol of the national Democratic Party, so the partisan association seems unmistakable. Here’s a closer look at the mascot logo (click to enlarge):

That logo is apparently an updated version of this more old-timey rendering, which the school used several decades ago:

And there’s another, more classic-looking but nonetheless donkey-centric logo that the school also uses here and there:

Of course, not-so-subtle political overtones can be found in lots of team names (“Rebels”) and school names (“Barack Obama Junior High School”), but naming your team after one of our country’s two major political parties seems like an unusually partisan move. One could easily argue that it serves as a de facto form of indoctrinating young minds toward one end of the political spectrum. Even the slogan on the banner — “Proud to Be a Democrat” — seems fraught. If a student’s parents happened to be Republicans (or independents, or just opposed to commingling education and politics), it’s not hard to imagine them objecting to all of this.

As of eight years ago, Jefferson High was the only school in the entire state of Oregon to have a majority of black students. Given that blacks overwhelmingly identify with the Democratic Party, most parents in the school district may be fine with the team name. Still, it seems like a really questionable approach to team naming. (The school, which is over 100 years old, presumably had different student demographics at one time, and it’s not clear when or why the team name was selected, although it’s worth noting that Thomas Jefferson co-founded the Democratic-Republican Party, which was an early forerunner of today’s Democratic Party, so that probably explains how a school named after Jefferson had its teams named after the Democrats.)

In light of the school’s demographics and the growing reassessment of some aspects of Jefferson’s life, I wondered if the school name — Jefferson High — might be more controversial than the team name. And sure enough, it turns out that the school name has recently been the subject of some community debate.

As for uniforms, the cartoon donkey appears on the school’s football helmets, with “Demos” written on one of the donkey’s ears:

Aside from that, I couldn’t find any photos showing the word “Democrats” being worn by any of the school’s teams. Most of the uniforms just have “Jefferson” on the chest, although I did find one shot of the basketball team wearing “Demos”:

I wanted to learn more about all of this, so I emailed the school’s principal and athletic director. Unsurprisingly, I received auto-replies informing me that they’re both on vacation now that the school year has ended (the principal’s auto-reply concluded with the words “Go Demos!”), but I hope to catch up with them when they return — stay tuned.

Meanwhile, is anyone aware of any other schools whose teams are called the Democrats, Republicans, Whigs, or anything else along those lines?

Finally, I’d hope this goes without saying, but just in case: Let’s please discuss this without any partisan mud-slinging. The issue here isn’t about Democrats vs. Republicans; it’s about naming a team after a political party, of any stripe. Thanks.

(Big thanks to Taylor Workman for getting me started down this rabbit hole.)

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Cap reminder: In case you missed it earlier this week, fitted sizes of the Uni Watch “classic” cap have finally been restocked and are be available for purchase from Ebbets Field Flannels — although one size has already sold out again, and two other sizes are close to doing so.

So it seems like I’ve once again underestimated the demand. I’ll order another round of inventory today, and in the meantime order quickly before more sizes sell out.

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rafflet ticket by ben thoma.jpg

Raffle reminder: Today is the final day to enter the raffle for a bunch of old Kansas City Chiefs nameplates, which are being generously provided by a Uni Watch reader.

Full details on the raffle, including photos of the nameplates, are available here. I’ll announce the winner on Monday.

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The Ticker
By Kris Gross

Baseball News: Blue Jays SS Lourdes Gurriel Jr had a belt malfunction in last night’s game (from Ted). … Red Sox C Christian Vazquez and INF Rafael Devers, both of whom are on the DL, were in the dugout last night in batting practice jerseys (from Tim Kraus). … Good spot by Denver Gregg, who noticed that the D-backs used two pitchers with single-digit numbers in Wednesday night’s game. Both were position players who were brought in after the Rockies took a huge lead. … Wow, check out the gorgeous program from the 1955 All-Star Game (from BSmile). … Houston Texans DE JJ Watt presented the Astros All-Stars with their jerseys at last night’s game (from Ignacio Salazar). … Speaking of All-Star uniforms, Anthony Bram submitted a potential new uni design via mail to commissioner Bowie Kuhn ahead of the 1975 ASG. Unfortunately, Kuhn turned down the design, but he did respond with an autographed photo. … Not sure how I feel about this White Sox hat designed around the flag of Chicago (from Maximiliano). … This T-Mobile ad is all sorts of wrong. It features the NL vs AL, which was done away with beginning with the 2015 Home Run Derby (from Alex). … The Orioles will give away Maryland flag script jerseys tomorrow (from Andrew Cosentino). … It was Star Wars night for the South Bend Cubs last night (from Terry Mark). … Here are the Cosmo Kramer jerseys the Potomac Nationals will wear tonight (from Eric Postlethwait). … The Fresno Grizzlies will wear “80s-style” taco uniforms on July 19. … The Down East Wood Ducks celebrate Christmas in July with ugly sweater jerseys tomorrow. … The Montgomery Biscuits will host Millennial Night next weekend (from @walbergLines). … The Iowa Cubs are giving away replica rings from their 1993 American Association title (from Lee Wilds). … The new Atlantic League team coming in 2019 has a name and logo: the High Point Rockers (from William A Gentry). … These kids Get It™ (from Jordan Mayblum). … The Pirates will wear Pittsburgh Crawfords Negro League throwbacks tonight. It’s not clear whether their opponents, the Brewers, will also wear throwbacks (from Jerry Wolper).

NFL News: In honor of the World Cup, the Dolphins designed their own team-branded soccer kit (from Eric Todoroff). … Pro Football Journal spotted an old-school helmet oopsie. … The Ravens are completely moving away from paper tickets, instead using only digital tickets (from Andrew Cosentino). … Also listed in the baseball section: Texas DE JJ Watt presented the Houston Astros All-Stars with their jerseys at last night’s game (from Ignacio).

College Football News: We finally get our official look at Temple’s new unis (from Sean McGady). … Tennessee is reportedly moving on from the checkerboard pattern on their unis (from Josh Hinton). … Florida will unveil their Jordan uniforms on July 17 (from George Mangrum). … It looks like Florida State will be wearing black on Labor Day against Virginia Tech (from @broc1984). … In the wake of the latest scandal involving pizza magnate “Papa” John Schnatter, Louisville players have asked for a stadium name change (thanks, Brinke). … New uniforms for Pearl River Community College. … I’m not huge into the world of DII football, but I’m being told this is a new helmet for Washburn (from Ryan Atkinson).

Hockey News: Thoughts on these beer league sweaters? I think these are very well done, bravo! (From Bobby Kasimis.) … Adidas is the new jersey provider of the Da Beauty League, a summer four-on-four league featuring players with Minnesota connections (from Eric).

Soccer News: We’ve got this weekend’s World Cup kit matchups. … FIFA has fined England for wearing “unauthorized” socks at the World Cup (from Normcore Rockwell). … Also listed in the NFL section: In honor of the World Cup, the Miami Dolphins designed their own team-branded kit (from Eric Todoroff). … Here’s a look at Liverpool FC’s new third kit (from Moe Khan). … Speaking of, all of your Premier League kit news can be found right here. … DC United has a trademarked logo for their soon-to-be USL team Loudoun United (from Stan). … New kits for NK Maribor and S.S. Lazio (from Rok Grilec, Luigi). … Canadian Premier League has a new team, Hamilton Forge FC. You can read about the design behind their colors and logos here (from Wade Heidt). … Semi-pro team Lowcountry United has some pretty sweet shirts (from @aracauna_man). … We missed this last week, but Georgia State unveiled their third kit (from Doug Hazard). … Everton’s new kits have leaked (from Casey Hart).

Grab Bag: The Langley Thunder of the Western Lacrosse Association wore purple jerseys on Wednesday night, in honor of a cancer victim (from Wade Heidt). … Captain American almost went BFBS in Civil War (from Mike Chaldu). … The U.S. Navy is getting new PT uniforms (from Scott Rogers). … President Trump wants to update the livery design of Air Force One. USA Today has gathered some reader-submitted design possibilities (from Yancy Yeater). … This apartment complex logo looks familiar (from Brandon Bays). … If you like Panton color swatches, you’ll love these Pantone placemats and coasters (from B.S. Brewer). … What’s that patch on British Prime Minister Theresa May’s arm? Answer: It’s a diabetes monitoring patch, which tracks her blood sugar levels and lets her know when she needs to inject insulin.

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On a serious note, my thanks to everyone who sent supportive emails about yesterday’s “Sorry, We’re Closed” post. The short version is that my mom has been facing some medical challenges, so I’ve been devoting a lot of time to that. The situation is very much in flux, and it’s possible that the site will be closed again for a day or two in the coming weeks, although I’m hoping to avoid that. Thanks in advance for your patience and understanding. — Paul

Comments (87)

    Paul, best wishes to you and your mom. I hope I speak for everyone here by saying that I am perfectly okay with you closing the site for as long as you need to in order to take care of your mom.

    Prayers for your mom and family during this time. As stated before family is always first so if the site is down for a couple of days I think we understand.

    Sorry we’re closed = there are occasionally issues more important that uniform details

    We all understand, Paul. Best of luck. We’re all sending positive energy to you and your family.

    Saying a few prayers for your mom and your entire family.
    Air Force One redesign looks like one of those awful “new helmets for all 32 teams” gimmick designs.
    Shame the Dolphins didn’t use some of the awesome Football as Football logos on their soccer kit mock up.
    Definitely odd to see a team named after a political party. Even in the past it seems a bit off, but in today’s ultra partisan uncivilized political climate it seems downright crazy.

    I’m sorry to hear about your mom’s issues. It’s obvious whenever you write about her that she’s very special to you. Hoping she’s feeling herself again soon.

    Sorry to hear about what your mom is going through. Here’s hoping that these challenges will be resolved in her favor. Wishing you strength as you take care of your mom.

    “Here are the Cosmo Kramer jerseys the Potomac Nationals will wear tonight ‘

    Who know “Hipster Doofus Night” was a thing??

    They’re not celebrating Michael Richards. They’re celebrating a character in a TV show.

    I, for one, am still waiting for some team to have a Stanley Spadowski Night.

    WHO WANTS TO DRINK FROM THE FIREHOSE?

    Best wishes to your family and especially your Mom. From your posts, she is a remarkable lady!

    Seems perfectly logical to have a high school of that age with a nickname that’s probably the equivalent of Nationals, Yankees and the like 50-100 years ago. Pretty unique but also innocuous, only until recent years has it become so grossly partisan.

    PS, if we start removing Thomas Jefferson’s name from things… How many thousands of schools, towns, counties, and townships would that impact?

    It’s fun to think a school has that nickname all these years. Neat logo, too. Sports could use more donkeys, elephants, mastadons, mules, and other animals beyond tigers and Wildcats.

    I am a graduate of Jefferson High School, Class of 84. The student demographics have been mostly African-American since the 70s. In the 50s, we had one of the most powerful football teams in Oregon history with Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker and NFL Hall of Famer Mel Renfro. When Interstate 5 was constructed, it split our neighborhood down the middle and with the start of suburbia sprawl, the community became inner city. Recently gentrification has happened but many send their kids elsewhere for school, and Jefferson has the lowest enrollment of any Portland HS. Love to see my alma mater as the lead story on my favorite web site.

    We have been the Democrats or Demos for 109 years and I don’t recall that ever being questioned, although there have been recent efforts, as was noted, to change the Jefferson part.

    Sorry for the delayed reply, had to work late. My class was the 75th and we published a historical magazine. I flipped through it and there is nothing about the history of the Democrat nickname. I will take a second look. I’ve also posted on our alumni Facebook group and will pass on anything I hear.

    Soccer ticker: It’s “Loudoun”, with 2 “u”s. “Loudon” is only correct when referring to the singer/songwriter Wainwright. It’s in the logo!

    Also, Loudoun United is the laziest name ever – I liked that of Virginia Cavalry, the area’s planned NASL team that collapsed a few years ago.

    All the best to Paul’s family…

    Is it lazier then Fresno FC? (The name was picked in 2017, as the club started playing matches in 2018, so it’s by no means the first or one of the first American clubs to name their team this way.)

    Paul,

    First off best wishes and good vibes to you, your mother, and the rest of your family.

    I just wanted to list one correction regarding the Pirates Negro League jerseys, it’s actually Pittsburgh Crawfords jerseys that they are going to be wearing.

    “Meanwhile, is anyone aware of any other schools whose teams are called the Democrats, Republicans, Whigs, or anything else along those lines?”

    Independents?
    Green Wave?

    “Whig” is a good name. Imagine the headlines if a team gets an unexpected win:

    “Central High Whigs Out”

    In the hockey ticker, that would be De Beauty League. Not Beaty (sic).

    Thomas Jefferson did much to found America’s first organized political party, which referred to itself as “Republican.” The modern Democratic Party likes to claim direct descent from Jefferson’s party, but that’s not really true. Or in sports terms it’s as true as the not-quite-a-lie fable that the modern Cincinnati Reds are the same team as the 1869 Red Stockings. Jefferson’s party eventually achieved de facto one-party rule and then splintered into factions that solidified into several parties, including the one that coalesced around Andrew Jackson as the Democratic Republicans. That party really is the direct institutional ancestor of the modern Democratic Party. When that party splintered over issues relating to slavery in the 1850s, some Democrats joined with other factions and parties, most of which also traced a lineage back to Jefferson’s Republicans, to form a new opposition party that adopted the original moniker of Jefferson’s party’s and remains with us today as the Republican Party.

    However, since Jackson, it’s become common to refer to Jefferson’s party as “Democratic-Republican,” and the Democratic Party has promulgated the myth of its direct succession from Jefferson’s party by celebrating “Jefferson-Jackson” events. (The Republican Party promulgates similar myths about its own origins, too. I intend no aspersions against either party on this point.) There shouldn’t be any shame in a school adopting as a nickname the name of a defunct political party associated with its namesake. Show me the Henry Clay High Whigs or the Adams Prep Federalist or the La Follette High Progressives and I’ll join the booster club. But neither the term “Democrat” nor the donkey mascot has any real connection to Jefferson; both are symbols of Jackson’s party, the direct antecedent of today’s Democratic Party.

    Maybe we need a team called the Federalists? No, wait. The USFL had something like that …

    I too was looking forward to Scott’s comment. In fact, I intentionally held this entry in the hopper for about a week until he got back from vacation!

    Aww!

    More fun partisan trivia: Parties in our first party system didn’t have mascots as firmly entrenched as our donkey and elephant. But they did have colored cockades for their hats: Black and white for the Federalists, red and blue for the Republicans. No, the Federalists were not BFBS; their cockade was based on the one the Continental Army wore during the Revolution after the alliance with France. Although, ironically, by the time the parties formed in the 1790s, the Federalists were strongly anti-France and the Republicans were strongly pro-France.

    You will find cartoons from the era that depict the Federalists as an eagle and the Republicans as a rooster, but that never really amounted to more than occasional shorthand rather than semi-official mascots. Although it’s fun to think that had political history taken slightly different turns, we could have wound up with two parties represented by a rooster and a moose instead of a donkey and an elephant.

    In 1824, the Jeffersonian Republican Party (I really dislike the retroactive Democratic-Republican Party name) splintered into factions. The two major factions were the John Quincy Adams faction and the Andrew Jackson faction.

    The Election of 1824 went to the House of Representatives, and Q negotiated a deal with Henry Clay in which Clay would get Secretary of State if Clay whipped up votes for Q. Jackson had won the most Electoral Votes, but Q ended up winning in the House. Jackson was ripped off. He essentially started running for president in 1828 then.

    Martin Van Buren founded the Democratic Party in the wake of <a href="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c7/The_modern_balaam_and_his_ass.jpg"Jackson‘s loss. Supporters of Q and Clay formed the National Republican Party.

    The National Republican Party collapsed and was reorganized into the Whig Party, which would see 4 presidents from their party in office. Two died, William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor, one was expelled from the Whig Party, John Tyler, and Millard Fillmore was not well liked and replaced by Winfred Scott on the 1852 Whig ticket. After the 1852 election, in which Franklin Pierce was elected president, the Whigs collapsed and scattered into the Know-Nothing Party or the new Republican Party.

    And I concur, there is no connection between the Democratic Party and Thomas Jefferson – though Jackson himself drew parallels. The donkey surely has nothing to do with Jefferson and everything to do with Jackson. The only relationship is that it was a splinter group of the Jeffersonian Republican Party, and that the Democrats had more planks in common with Jeffersonian Republicans than the National Republicans did with Q and Clay.

    Best wishes during this time Paul.

    Love the just kelly green and yellow uniforms for Team Bic in Da Beauty League. Was more common colour scheme in the past but not seen as often now. Was a time when 2 NHL teams wore this same colour scheme at the same time in a smaller NHL (North Stars and Golden Seals). Usually, black gets added in when you see uniforms of this colour scheme.

    Riviere-du-Loup 3L of the Quebec-based Ligue Nord-Americaine de Hockey used to wear some sweet just kelly green and yellow recently, but their uniforms are black now.

    http://www.hockeyhebdo.com/imagesUp/chroniques/146-3.jpg

    I can think of a much better nickname for Jefferson High School: The Airplane. As in “Jefferson Airplane”.

    Wishing you and your mom the best in difficult times.

    Family/Health first – don’t feel the need to apologize or worry about the site. We GetIt™.

    I foubd another Jefferson High (in Los Angeles) that uses Democrats as well, including a surly Thomas Jefferson logo. They must have a great fine arts program as they boast alumni like Barry White, Etta James and a host of great jazz musicians. I don’t know how to post pics, but Paul RT’d the one I posted on Twitter. Here’s the school website: https://jefferson-lausd-ca.schoolloop.com

    Yes that is a great logo, heres an older version.

    https://goo.gl/images/WgAJBY

    As I mentioned my sister went to this school, so I have some knowledge on it. Unfortunately this school has had many issues since the 80’s. Race relations, drop out rates, have been a real problem. This school does have great history though, unfortunately its just that.

    L.A. Unified has some pretty cool nicknames:

    Washington H.S. Generals
    Roosevelt H.S. Roughriders
    Poly H.S. Parrots
    Manual Arts H.S. Toilers (my alma mater)-as in someone who toils, school used to be a vocational school when first founded.
    Fremont H.S. Pathfinders
    Venice H.S. Gondoliers (personal favorite)
    Wilson H.S. Mules
    Hamilton H.S. Yankees

    One team name that came to mind was a high school a few miles from mine growing up in Northern Virginia, the Langley Saxons, named after British Anglo-Saxons with their mascot being a Scottish “Highlander”.

    North High (Torrance, CA) is also called the Saxons. They use a sword as their logo.
    http://www.northhighschool.org
    https://saxonathletics.com

    All four of the public high schools in Torrance use references to a romanticized, brave, fighting clan (for lack of a better description).

    South High Spartans
    West High Warriors (using Native American imagery)
    Torrance High Tartars (this is the only school I can think of using Tartar as a mascot/nickname)

    Jefferson High School in South Central LA (my sister went there) interestingly enough is know as the Demos as well, colors are green and yellow (gold).

    Fascinating story about Jefferson HS and their nickname. I feel very strongly that the nickname is partisan and not appropriate for a public school. I hope they change or alter it at some point soon.

    Thoughts and prayers to you and your mom.
    I’m an independent, but I would be against this if I was a democrat. The idea of separation of church and state is to protect the minority, however small. Same should apply for politics. I don’t want partisan politics at a public place like a school. We should be teaching independent thinkers. Unfortunately group-think is a powerful thing.

    I also wonder what would be said if a conservative, predominately white area, called their high school the Ronald Reagan HS Republicans.

    I wouldn’t object to a party-based mascot if A) The party in question were defunct; and B) The party name were actually, correctly associated with the school’s own name. So, the Henry Clay High Whigs would find no objection from me, nor the Van Buren Prep Free Soilers. Heck, Federalists would be a much more appropriate nickname for a school named after George Washington than Colonials. (Ahem, I say, squinting at my own alma mater.)

    The Thomas Jefferson High Republicans would technically meet my criteria, but would probably confuse more than enlighten, so it’s not a great idea.

    With both teams in the world cup finals wearing their 1st or home kit some quick facts
    1. This will be the first final where both teams are wearing Nike supplied jerseys
    2. This will only be the second time a Nike out fitted team has won a World cup in a Nike uniform (Brazil, 2002)
    3. This will be only the second time Croatia has worn their traditional red and white checkerboard kit this tournament. the only other time was their opening match against Nigeria
    4. France is 1-0 in blue in world cup finals, 0-1 in white.

    A disappointment that France isn’t allowed to go with its glorious combo of blue top, white shorts, red socks look.

    I’m not so sure that the term “Rebels” necessarily has ‘political’ overtones, per se, any more so than Bluejackets, Yankees, Americans, Minutemen, Patriots or Renegades for example, but perhaps that’s just a matter of opinion.

    I understand and respect the point you’re trying to make, I’m just not sure the term is necessarily political, in the sense that we use the term today.

    Even with the use of Civil War imagery, the War Between the States cut across party lines with members of both political parties on both sides of the War. And a Rebel can refer to a James Dean beatnick as much as a Civil War Southerner.

    Is it *always* used to send a political message? No. But has it *often* been used with political overtones? Yes (and often in conjunction with explicitly Confederate visual imagery), which is why many schools have stopped using it.

    Further thoughts on “Rebels” as a team name here:
    https://staging-uni-watch.astroluxe.network/2014/04/23/some-team-should-call-itself-the-establishment/

    And here:
    https://staging-uni-watch.astroluxe.network/2015/06/29/a-symbol-of-the-south-used-by-teams-in-the-north/

    Sorry to hear your mom’s having health problems, Paul. Sending positive thoughts & good vibe to you all.

    Sorry to hear about your mom’s health problems. Please don’t apologize for putting your family first. Take the time you need, we’ll be here when you get back. Wishing you strength and wishing good health for your mother.

    Take care of your Mom; we’re all sending good thoughts!
    PS My fitted Uni-Watch cap is supposed to arrive Monday.

    Paul,

    As my mom’s caretaker, I understand what you are going through. If you need to close the site that is understandable. Sending good thoughts your way ad hope she is getting well.

    Kansas Jayhawks isn’t a political party, but it was named after group of Kansas (terrritory) residents that would raid households in Missouri steal their slaves and release them. (In the process they would, at times, shoot and kill slave owners.) So, again, it isn’t a modern political party, but the namesake comes from the Free State Ideology. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jayhawker (also, click on ‘Bleeding Kansas’ for more background history about the Free State Party. This, to my knowledge, wasn’t a national party, but it was a political party locally in Kansas Territory.)

    Also in Lawrence, KS there is a high school that opened in 1997 called Lawrence Free State High School. (Their mascot is a firebird, so it isn’t a political party like today’s blog post, but nonetheless their school name is after the same political ideology of the Jayhawkers.) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Free_State_High_Schoolhttps://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Free_State_High_School

    Just got my UniWatch fitted hat from Ebbets. Sizes look to run a touch smaller than New Era.

    Not sure it’s technically political, but interesting:

    Lafayette HS in Lexington, KY, is named after the French General Marquis de Lafayette (the same guy that Fayette County, which encompasses the city of Lexington, was named after). They are nicknamed the Generals, which is a clear reference to the Revolutionary War, which in the 1770’s, was a big political controversy.

    On a side note, Henry Clay HS in Lexington, KY, is nicknamed the Blue Devils, and not the Whigs (they do a blue and gold themed version of Manchester United’s logo as their soccer team’s logo, which is cool). To be honest, I think it’d be a big weird to play for a school whose mascot/nickname was a defunct political party.

Comments are closed.