Will the debate to change team names ever end?
Lately, there has been an aggressive campaign by the Choctaw Nation and the National Congress of American Indians to get owner Daniel Snyder to change the name of the Washington Redskins. As aggressive as they have been, Snyder hasn’t budged. It doesn’t look like he will, either, even after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revoked trademarks for the team’s name. KTAR’s Bruce St. James even wrote about it.
Now, there’s more.
Several people from a group called “Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry” showed up at Chase Field to protest baseball’s Cleveland Indians. This group wants the team to change both their name and logo, the famous Chief Wahoo.
Like the battle to change the Redskins name, this fight, too, has been going on for years. The first lawsuit against the Cleveland Indians’ name was filed in 1972.
Nicholet Deschine Parkhurst, spokesperson for Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, told Channel 3:
“We believe that Native mascots, like Chief Wahoo, should be eliminated from professional sports, merchandise (and) arenas.”
Chief Wahoo was first introduced in 1948. Since then, the logo has undergone numerous changes, but those changes haven’t quieted the critics. Protests have continued in Cleveland year after year, and more recently, Chief Wahoo has started to quietly disappear.
The logo is no longer displayed prominently at Jacob Field in Cleveland — the chief used to be everywhere. The team has even taken him off the players’ hats and batting helmets, replacing them with a capital ‘C.’ Chief Wahoo is now the Indians’ secondary logo.
As far as the team name is concerned, the Cleveland team became known as the Indians in 1914. The name was chosen after a newspaper contest asked fans to select the next team name. “Indians” was chosen, in honor of Major League Baseball’s first Native American player, Louis Sockalexis.
Sockalexis faced racial insults during his short baseball career with Cleveland, but 100 years later, he’s still recognized as the “first Cleveland Indian.”
Look, America’s horrible, sad and despicable treatment of Native Americans is no secret. It’s shameful and will always be a massive black eye on America’s history. Changing a sports team name won’t change that; nothing will.
However, a more constructive debate would focus on the current conditions on many of the 322 Native American reservations across the country. As a whole, Native Americans have the highest poverty rate in country — almost 30 percent, according to the Census Bureau. Household incomes are way below the national average, as are health insurance rates.
Somehow, those facts have gotten lost in the team name debate.
The point is there are much bigger issues here, ones that deserve attention and discussion. Maybe they’re not as sexy as debates about the names “Redskins” and “Indians,” but they would be more constructive. That’s why, once and for all, as adults, let’s accept or reject these team names and then move on.