By BRADY HAMILTON
CLEVELAND, April 2 — Sports teams with Native American names and mascots have been a very hot topic to talk about in recent years. Many Native American individuals and groups have come out publicly on why these mascots and team names are offensive. There have also been numerous of protests from many groups, calling for an end to them.
Some team names are also considered offensive, especially those combined with a Native American mascot. For example, Washington’s National Football League team dropped both its name and logo in the summer of 2020, right before the start of the season. The name Redskins, and the team logo of a Native American Indian head, had been the subject of protests for decades. Increasing pressure helped propel Washington to change both its team name and logo, the first pro sports team to do so.
The Cleveland Indians will become the second team to fall into this category, and I can relate to this personally as a long-time Cleveland Indians fan. Here is a link to that announcement. https://www.mlb.com/indians/fans/cleteamname For the more than a decade or so at every home opener, there have been protests by Native Americans and others to striving to remove both the Chief Wahoo (a grin-toothed Native American head) logo and to change the Major League Baseball team’s name.
In the 2016 season, the Indians announced that it would be the final year for Chief Wahoo to be used on the field. Game 7 of the 2016 World Series was the last time Chief Wahoo appeared on a Cleveland Indians’ player’s hat or jersey. Yet the team still received a lot of backlash after the move, however, because to this day the organization still sells Chief Wahoo merchandise in the team shop.
Native Americans have kept pushing the Indians to change the team’s name too, and their goal will officially be reached in 2022. In the Winter of 2020, the Cleveland Indians announced that the 2021 season will be the final year the team will go by the name that they have been using for well over 100 years. There will be a new team name in 2022.
I personally feel the same way as a lot of other sports fans of these teams do. Especially with the Cleveland Indians. If the logo and team name has been around for so long (well over 100 years) how did it become such a big problem over the last decade?
I wasn’t old enough to know that the name and Chief Wahoo logo was a problem. I began to realize how much people hated it in my early teen years. I started to go to Indians home openers in 2015 and that is when I knew about the protests too.
Last month, I watched an event at my college (Cuyahoga Community College) at which Joshua Hunt, a Cheyenne Indian, shared his story about all of this and how it has affected him and others in Native American communities across the U.S. “To use and symbolize Native Americans in the exact same way as violent, predatory animals is racist and dehumanizing, to say the least” Hunt said in his presentation.
Hunt also stated that the names and images are omnipresent reminders of past genocidal violence against Native Americans. I see it a little bit differently, but after hearing and considering his passionate presentation, I have a lot of respect for the position many have reached — that these names and logos should be eliminated.
I also understand why the two aforementioned professional sports teams are abandoning these names, mascots and logos. In 2021, sports names shouldn’t be offensive to other people. It is the right thing to do.
To add more emphasis on this serious issue is, the Cleveland Indians took it another step further with a team announcement on Wednesday. Starting this season, Cleveland will no longer allow headdresses or face paint inside Progressive Field. Throughout the season, but especially on Opening Day and in the playoffs, some diehard fans would wear Chief Wahoo-related headdresses and face paint. This will no longer be permitted, although fans are still allowed to wear Chief Wahoo hats, shirts, and other clothing at Progressive Field. This is just a tiny but important step into the direction that the franchise is going. Here is a story about this policy: https://sports.yahoo.com/indians-not-allowing-headdresses-painted-170611585.html
I feel for Native Americans, and although I am still not a fan of a name change, it needs to happen and I am ready for it as well. I hope other high school, college, and pro sports teams will follow this same path. The Washington Football Team and Cleveland Indians are creating a new beginning, one without bias and stereotypes against Native Americans.
Hamilton is a sophomore at Cuyahoga Community College. He wrote this as part of an assignment for MJS 1320, Social Media Communication. You can email him at email@example.com, or reach him on Facebook at Brady Hamilton, or follow him on Twitter at @Brady_216
Hamilton recommends for further reading Joshua Hunt’s website titled “Committee of 500 years of dignity and resistance.” It is linked below: