In the often uncreative world of law school, intramural sports (along with Law Revue… did you know we have a contest coming up?) offers one of the rare opportunities to show your creative side. The unwritten code of intramural sports is that any team worth its salt must have a clever team name. Law jokes are appreciated, but dorky. Borderline inappropriate stuff is best.
As the host of several ATL/Kaplan Bar Prep Bar trivia nights, I’ve enjoyed some of the borderline team names law students can concoct if given an outlet and some booze. And intramural sports are a lot like playing bar trivia: lots of booze and absolutely no athletic skill.
But there’s a controversy brewing at a certain law school over a softball team’s name. So let’s play: “Funny or Inappropriate?” shall we?
We actually played a version of this game last year when UCLA students printed “Team Sander” shirts for their softball team. Since the students were in Professor Richard Sander’s section, that could be a really lazy, but inoffensive team name. Or it could be an attempt to use the game as an excuse to create avatars of racial insensitivity since — regardless of what you think of Sander’s scholarship on race — flaunting your support for him is at best racially insensitive and at worse racist. It’s like how it might just be a Romanesque-era decorative Christian Cross, but if you hung a swastika in your house, it probably says a bit more than that.
Anyway, this year’s edition is about one of George W.’s illustrious Axis of Evil: North Koreans. Not the actual DPRK, of course, but a group of University of San Diego School of Law students who chose “North Koreans” as their softball team name. Sort of. Officially, the team name is something benign like “Class of 2014 Nostalgic Fun Squad” but there’s no doubt that they’re the North Koreans. Instead of their actual names, the jerseys are emblazoned with names like “loyal patriot,” “regal farmer,” and “brilliant scientist.” They bought a DPRK flag to pose with in their first semester championship photo. And in the official USD photo of their championship team, it’s captioned “North Koreans” (on page 5).
The basis for the team’s unofficial name is:
“[T]he team name came part from some comparative international legal research on democratic and other forms of government that some students on the team undertook that involved the extreme case of North Korean dictatorship. The other part came from an inside joke with them about the Captain of the team’s non-democratic actions when they were coming up with a jersey color.”
Are you chuckling? Well, not everyone is impressed.
One student wrote the Campus Recreation Director with this complaint:
[H]aving thought about and discussed this issue with classmates and professors, I strongly believe that the USD community deserves an apology. The most repressive country in the world, North Korea is not a joke to the millions of people who live there. The brutality, torture, and complete lack of respect for human rights there are well-documented and well-known. Regardless of their intentions, the team’s actions were therefore very hurtful. As lawyers, the members of this team will most likely have many minority clients, including Koreans, throughout their career. It is of ethical importance that they understand the implications of their actions and the messages they convey. I am sure that they would not want to risk offending their clients and their own reputations. The team took many steps for this—choosing jersey colors, buying a North Korean flag—so it is only fair for them to take responsibility for and acknowledge the consequences of their actions.
Well, that’s true, North Korea has a crazy dictator who periodically threatens to “mercilessly” blow up his neighbor and thinks Dennis Rodman is still cool. Citizens are kept on lockdown and denied what we would consider basic freedoms. On the flip side, constant threat of famine has subsided and they have really cool rules for basketball.
Chinese media report that North Korea has developed its own scoring system for the game: three points for a dunk, four points for a three pointer that doesn’t touch the rim, and eight points for a basket scored in the final three seconds. (This rule is … intriguing? The endings of North Korean basketball games must be cutthroat!) A missed free throw means minus-one point.
Kentucky never would have smelled the championship game if missed free throws took points off the board.
On the other hand, making fun of North Korea has an impressive pedigree: Team America, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, even the dumb Axe commercials. At least there’s nothing racist in calling out Kim Jong Un as a wacko. Unlike a team mocking, say, Iran, which would be replete with racial and religious stereotyping, North Korea’s brand of crazy is neutral on those fronts.
Anyway, is it insensitive to the plight of North Koreans to cast the DPRK government as a laughably fascist regime instead of a brutally fascist one? Personally, I can watch Hogan’s Heroes without sympathizing with Hitler, so these students get my endorsement. Good luck North Koreans (the team).
But where do you all come down?