Blazers react to the vow to change one of Major League Baseball’s most controversial names
On December 14, 2020, Cleveland Indians CEO Paul Dolan released a statement on Twitter indicating the team’s intention to begin the process of changing its name. Dolan wrote that the organization will “move forward to determine a new name that will better unify our community and build on our legacy for a new generation.” The name “Indians” has been the team’s official name since 1915, after Louis Sockalexis of the Penobscot nation who played for the former Cleveland Spiders. The name and mascot, Chief Wahoo, have a long history of controversy and criticism.
The “Indians” name and former mascot courted controversy since the 1970s, when a tradition of annual protests against them on Opening Day began. The protests often claimed that the name and mascot were offensive. In 2014, One group called “People not Mascots” filed suits for 9 billion dollars worth of damages against the team for “hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation and profiteering,” according to Native American activist Robert Roche.
Blair senior and 4-year Blair baseball player Jason Lott voiced his support for change. “I definitely support the name change, it’s been a long time coming...I think it needed to happen,” Lott said.
Blair junior Nino Mrkoci believed in order for a potentially controversial name like the “Indians” to escape controversy, relationships with native tribes were important. “I think it’s really about having good relations, more or less, with the tribes around you. And if you don’t have that, I think it’s probably the easier choice to just change [the name],” Mrkoci said.
Cleveland’s name change has also raised questions regarding how to honor Native Americans and Sockalxis without being offensive. Mrckoci believes that while the name chosen by Cleveland was too offensive, it’s still possible to have respectful team names pertaining to Native Americans. “I think if you’re able to change it to something a little more politically correct, I guess, then you might be able to be more respectful to some people who are bothered by it,” Mrkoci said.
Lott offered a suggestion similar to how the MLB honors Jackie Robinson. The league’s first Black player. “I know that MLB has a ‘Jackie Robinson’ day in which they wear Jackie Robinson’s number...they could do something like that. Maybe one day a year they could wear jerseys with a native language on it,” Lott said.
Both the timing and nature of the name change creates parallels with the Washington Football team. In a statement released on Twitter, the organization announced on July 13 that they would be dropping the name and mascot of “Redskins” after 87 years. The name has drawn heavy criticism since 1972. Both name changes came in the months following the killing of George Floyd by police, the widespread Black Lives Matter protests and a nationwide reckoning over American racism.
Blair senior and 4-year baseball player Nick Layke indicated that the decision by Cleveland was probably influenced by the one made in Washington. “I do think that the Washington Football Team influenced the Cleveland Indians...There are a number of teams with these insensitive names, and the Washington Football Team wasn’t the first to change their names, but they were definitely one of the most prevalent ones recently...So I think that sort of paved the way for some other teams to sort of ‘take up the train,’ so to speak,” Layke said.
Other teams in the realm of sports, like the MLB’s Atlanta Braves, the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and the NHL’s Chicago Black Hawks (all of which have attracted controversy in the past) are all standing by their names.
Luke Sanelli. Hi, I'm Luke Sanelli, and I'm a writer for Silver Chips Online. I enjoy to watch TV with my family and play video games in my free time. I'm also a major Buffalo Bills fan and baseball cap fanatic. More »