The Hamilton Pistols were the subject of a protest this week from gun-control groups. A group of about three dozen demonstrators picketed prior to the Pistols’ game against the Dakota Rapids, arguing that the team should change its name.
“We’ve got an epidemic of gun violence out there,” said Robert Fryston, who identified himself as the head of the protestors, a group calling itself Stop The Killing. “To glamorize it by naming your team after a firearm, and to put guns on your merchandise… it’s just wrong. No one would think it was okay to put a picture of drugs on your jersey. Why is this any different?”
Pistols GM Marcel LaClaire replied that the name was chosen not to glorify guns, but to reflect the area’s manufacturing history, which includes the products of arms. “While we sympathize with the concerns of the protestors,” said LaClaire, “we do not believe that the name of our team in any way encourages or celebrates violence. I do not think that there is anyone who sees our jerseys and wants a gun who did not want one before. If we are going to seek solutions to the problems of gun violence, there are more productive ways to do so.”
Hamilton coach Ron Wright, asked about the protests after the game, was blunter in his response. “Are you serious?” Wright snapped. “We’re in a dogfight for our playoff lives, and I’m supposed to worry about the fact that there’s a picture of a gun on our jerseys? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Both of these responses, but particularly Wright’s, quickly became targets for outrage, as gun-control advocates took to social media to protest the Pistols’ name. On Friday, the organization partially reversed course. LaClaire apologized for any offense his remarks had given, and the Pistols organization donated to the Coalition for Gun Control, Canada’s leading gun control advocacy organization.
“While we have no intention of changing our name,” said LaClaire, “we recognize the serious concerns about gun-related crime here and in the US, and we hope to be part of the solution.”
One unintended upshot of the controversy: Pistols merchandise sales have surged by 25% since the story erupted on social media.