Sports Teams Alter Offensive, Outdated Names

Daniel Garrison, Staff Writer

The Cleveland Indians announced they would change their name and logo by the 2022 season, finally giving in to outrage accusing the team of using a racist mascot. This follows the Washington Redskins temporarily changing their name to the Washington Football Team last July. 

These moves have revitalized calls for all professional and collegiate teams to remove Native American mascots from sports. 

The debate about these mascots is not a new one. Protests against the name ‘Redskins’ have existed since the 1970s. In addition, the Cleveland Indians did away with their “Chief Wahoo” logo, a depiction of a bright red man with an enormous grin and a feather on his head, in 2018. 

For decades, the owners of these teams would not give in to the demands. Dan Snyder, owner of the former Washington Redskins, claimed that he would never change the name of the team in 2013. This changed last July when in response to the George Floyd shooting, Nike removed all Redskins merchandise from their store. Snyder finally gave in. 

Junior Mikey Wise, a lifelong Redskins fan, is not a fan of the name change.

“I was very disappointed,” Wise said. “I knew it was coming because they had talked about it for years. At the time the team was named, the term was not as disrespectful as it is nowadays. Realistically, I think the name is a little disrespectful, but I don’t think they should have to change it.”

Although there have been calls for all teams with Native American imagery to change, some, like senior Brandon Battle, believe it depends on the context.

“Honestly, I just found the Redskins to be offensive,” Battle said. “’Redskin’ was used as a racist term toward Native Americans, but ‘chief’ is just the leader of a tribe. I guess that one is OK.” 

To many, the issue of these names is case-by-case.

The NCAA reviewed the use of the Florida State Seminoles mascot.  They contacted the Seminole leaders, who unanimously supported the mascot. This was because Florida State has a direct relationship with the Seminole tribe, which is native to the area around the university,  and offers many scholarships and promotions to the tribe.

The NCAA reviewed the University of Illinois’ “Chief Illiniwek” logo, however, and found it to be “hostile and abusive.” The University did away with the logo, and a referendum passed last year to use the Kingfisher bird as the new mascot. 

Senior Canon Adams agrees that the issue around these mascots is not simple.

“I think [name changes] are a decision that should be made with all perspectives considered,” said Adams. “Obviously if there are concerns among native groups, they deserve to be heard. That, along with input from fan bases, should be considered. You wouldn’t want a group feeling like their cultural identity is being mocked or degraded. It’s not a yes or no answer in my opinion. It’s a dialogue that could be beneficial for people of different perspectives.”