The Seattle Academy Girls Varsity Soccer team no longer calls themselves the SAVGS (pronounced Savages) starting this season.
Several years ago, former head coach Rob Phillips labeled all of their balls “SAVGS,” because many teams would practice at Starfire and it was difficult to identify stray soccer balls. The players soon realized that the acronym on the balls could be pronounced “savages,” and they took pride in the term because they associated it with fearlessness and athletic aggression. “We are the SAVGS,” the girls declared.
However, historically Europeans called Native Americans “savages” because they were pastoral people who did not live in established civilizations. The Europeans colonizers justified taking the Native Americans’ land by calling them inferior. History teacher Chuck Sekyra said that “Savages” is a derogatory term when describing Native Americans.
Brooks Hopp, the new varsity coach, enforced the name change in 2017 so that would not risk offending anyone, and because soccer is a team sport that represents a community.
Soccer player Emily Piette ’18 mentioned that the pronunciation of the team name portrayed Native Americans as a mascot. “That’s not what we want to represent,” she expressed.
During Fall Mania, the team has a tradition of lining up on the field with their faces painted. Last year, some players chose to kneel during the National Anthem as a form of protesting racial injustice. Rob Phillips pointed out the contradiction.
“If you kneel for racial justice and call yourself the SAVGS, then that's really a problem,” he said. Phillips’ wife is Native American, which caused the issue to affect him personally.
Lilia Hargreaves ‘18, another varsity player, explained that the name did not bother her personally. “Part of me does wish we were still called [the SAVGS] because it’s my senior year, and the [team] has been called that since the start of me being at SAAS. But inevitably, it is not my decision,” she stated.
Piette also did not find the team name offensive because she never associated it with Native Americans. However, she realized that the team painting their faces at Fall Mania only added to the controversy. “That’s not what we’re about,” Piette said.
The spirit of Seattle Academy’s Girls Varsity soccer team will always remain, even though they no longer use the term. “We play for the Cardinals,” Hopp said.