James Hock - MRH Faculty
Culture or New Values?: Should Professional Teams Change Their Team Names for Being Offensive?
By Mark C.
This year, Cleveland’s ball clubs will take the field once again, except they will be playing under a different name. Over the offseason, Cleveland has rebranded themselves as “The Cleveland Guardians,” as opposed to their original name “The Cleveland Indians.” Why is this? Why change their name after 107 years?
This change came after backlash that not only professional sports have faced, but college and high schools have faced over the last few years. In the past few years, many people, thanks to social media, have been able to voice their opinions about team names being offensive or racist, most notably the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians. Many people claim the teams’ names are “Insensitive” and “Oppressive to native culture.” With so many people rallying around the idea that having these team names promotes bigotry and hateful stereotypes, it is no question why these clubs have made swift moves to change their names.
However, the majority of the people calling for these teams names to be changed are not members of the native community. So, what does the native community think about these team names? In a poll done by the Washington Redskins in 2016, 90% of Native people polled felt proud of the team names. Why do people believe that Native people are offended then? In a 2020 study done by UC Berkeley, it was found that 49% of Native peoples disliked the name and 38% were not bothered by the name.
While these teams names can be seen or interpreted as insensitive, that is the exact opposite purpose of a team name. When naming a team, one does not pick a name as a joke. Club owners pick names that are strong and something that both players and fans can rally behind. These names are not picked to be made a mockery of, but rather to be proud of.
Should these names be changed? Well, kinda. While these names may have once been a way to honor and bring good faith to the native community, in modern times, these names can no longer be applicable with today's standards. Rather than getting rid of all representation of Native Americans and being so gung-ho about not being offensive, these organizations should work together with members of the Native community to create names and logos that honor, rather than “oppress,” Native people.