At this moment in time, as large groups of Americans are reconsidering the things they’ve seen, said, believed, and (mis)understood, it was very logical – and extremely appropriate – that the Washington Redskins would face public pressure to finally change their racist name. It was long past time, but this moment seems too big for it not to finally happen.
And with that likely happening, other sports and their mascots will face the same question about whether they should make a change.
One obvious team in Major League Baseball to at least have the conversation? The Cleveland Indians:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 4, 2020
The “Indians,” named after the misnomer of Native Americans, told The Athletic that they “have had ongoing discussions organizationally on these issues. The recent unrest in our community and our country has only underscored the need for us to keep improving as an organization on issues of social justice. With that in mind, we are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”
Cleveland finally started phasing out its racist “Chief Wahoo” caricature in recent years, but it remains to be seen just how seriously they will consider a name change. For the first time in my life, though, it sounds like it actually is under serious consideration, and I do think it is at least worth that consideration.
Admittedly, for a long time, I had no issue with “Indians” as a mascot, because I told myself that we had long passed the point where anyone even thinks of it as any kind of derogatory label. Sure, it’s the wrong name for a group of people whose land was taken from them (while many of them were killed in the process), but it’s just a baseball team. It references a group of people – not explicitly in a derogatory way – and nobody means anything bad by it. That’s how I used to think about it.
Over the last decade, though, my thinking has changed to being much more mixed. Even if you could convince me that it isn’t, on some level, derogatory to use a historically harmed group of people as the mascot for a sports team, you couldn’t convince me that it isn’t just really, really stupid to have a team named after a ridiculous misnomer like Christopher Columbus thinking he’d landed in India when he was really in the Americas. It’s just stupid. Historical? Yes. But just because something has been around a long time doesn’t mean it isn’t absurd.
But, yeah, I also think it’s belittling in a way I am not the best at articulating, and I would defer to listening to Native American groups on that front. Gut says it’s a stupid name at this point and is also probably inappropriate, but I think I probably still need some educating on this one to have a really FIRM position.
I hope this proceeds as a useful conversation, where those who might be impacted (whether in an immediate way or in a long-term, societal way) can be heard. I’m not naive enough to say that this is an easy topic, and I also know that it’s going to lead to questions about the Braves or the Blackhawks or the Illini. Still, this is a worthy conversation.
UPDATE: Cleveland has confirmed the statement now publicly:
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) July 4, 2020
Maybe someday soon I’ll get to use this:
People forget that the Cleveland Spiders blew a 3-1 lead.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 4, 2020