Sports teams are dropping their racist names


Doug Bardwell via Pixabay

Progressive Field, home of the former Cleveland Indians, was the site of many protests against the baseball team’s name. While the name is still on the field, Cleveland is in the process of changing the baseball team’s name.

Taze Wilson, Lead Editor

The Cleveland Indians recently announced that they will be changing their name in order to drop the currently racially insensitive title. The team will keep its “Indians” nickname and uniforms through 2021.

This name change is a part of a larger movement removing racially insensitive Native American names and logos from sports. 

Cleveland changed their baseball team’s mascot in 2018 from “Chief Wahoo”, a cartoon depiction of a Native American chief with red skin and an exaggerated headdress, to a blocky letter C. The name and logo change comes after a long history of Native American protests outside Progressive Field. 

Although, Cleveland has not been the only team to remove racially insensitive names and logos. Washington changed their football team’s name from the Washington Redskins earlier this year, renaming the franchise as the Washington Football Team. “Redskin” is a demeaning name towards Native Americans and the name change was widely celebrated. 

Native American groups have long been fighting against the use of racist names and monikers. Groups have been fighting at every level of sports, from professional teams to high school mascots. Many of these victories have come alongside the Black Lives Matter movement in the broader context of racial justice in the United States.

Civil rights activist Nikki Chang has been especially vocal about the need to get rid of racially insensitive mascots. “An entire race of people cannot be a mascot- they are a people,” said Chang. “Cheering for a team with their (Indigenious Peoples) face but not actually fighting for their civil rights/other issues of justice that surround them is terribly wrong.” 

With Washington and Cleveland changing their team’s names, pressure is mounting on other professional sports teams to change their names. One such team is the Atlanta Braves, notorious for having a chant that goes “tomahawk chop” and using a tomahawk as its logo.  Senators Loeffler and Perdue of Georgia have adamantly opposed changing the Atlanta Braves’ name, releasing a joint statement stating that the Braves are an “American Institution.”

This pressure isn’t only being exerted on professional sport’s franchises, but also highschools and colleges with mascots and team names in using racially insensitive Native American imagery/names. Hundreds of high schools have names in reference to Indigenous People, including the “Brownies” of Agawam High School in Massachusetts. 

While many of these names are in reference to specific tribes or people, dozens of them come from insults and racist language directed at Indigenous Americans. State governments have even passed laws protecting these mascots, including one passed by Tennessee in 2007. 

Despite resistance, many still have hope that schools will drop these names. “It’s highly inappropriate and disrespectful to use those mascots,” said Chang. “I encourage and support the resistance to change them!” 

Cleveland’s name change, along with the changes by many other sports teams, is a step in the right direction, but there are still many other schools and institutions bearing racially offensive names and mascots. These name changes have been a part of a larger movement of racial justice in the United States and time will tell whether this trend will continue.