Yesterday a Facebook friend posted the article announcing that the Cleveland Indians were finally going to change their name. In 2018, the team quit using the image of Chief Wahoo as their logo and are now dropping the name of Indians after many years of protests and political incorrectness. This makes them the latest major sporting franchise to remove a derogatory term from their team name. She and some other people on the post couldn't understand why "Indians" is offensive. After I gave her a brief explanation, she began to see why.
It has taken many years of protests for the baseball team to finally come to their senses and make this change. Ironically, it took the protests of the killing of George Floyd to make the two franchises that opposed changing their names to give in. Those two are the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins.
We first saw team names being changed among the colleges and universities with the Stanford Indians being one of the first in 1972, changing to the Cardinals and eventually just the Stanford Cardinal. To date at least 25 schools have changed their names because they felt it was offensive to Native Americans.
There are still a few that have kept the names because they aren't deemed as derogatory or offensive, though they did change their logos over the years. Four that come to mind are the Florida State Seminoles, Central Michigan Chippewas, Mississippi College Choctaws, and the Utah Utes. These schools all have the names of tribes that are local to the schools and claim to have permission from the tribes to use their name.
We still have some professional franchises that have not changed their names for the same reason. In baseball besides the Indians, you have the Atlanta Braves. This name has followed them from Boston to Milwaukee and currently to Atlanta. We were taught in elementary school that male members of the tribes were called Braves, so I don't feel they considered that derogatory unless that is not a true statement. When the Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee, they changed their logo to one that was similar to the one used by the Indians and continued to use it when they moved to Atlanta. They finally dropped that image in the 80s along with the human mascot Chief Noc-A-Homa.
The other NFL team that uses a term associated with Native American heritage is the Kansas city Chiefs. As we learned the males in a tribe were called Braves, we also learned that the leaders of the tribes were called Chiefs. Chiefs is definitely not a derogatory term, but the actions of the fans has been deemed offensive by the franchise officials, and they have prohibited some of these actions through a team statement, which you can view in the link below. Ironically in their statement they refer to Native Americans as American Indians.
In the NBA there is only one team that has a Native American origin in their name and that is the Golden State Warriors. This franchise originated in Philadelphia and may have been named for the Delaware tribe that was close by. The only connection i could find to Native Americans was through their early logos, which they dropped in 1962 after they had moved to San Francisco. Warriors is not a derogatory term and the current franchise has no merchandising or advertising that even suggests there is a link to Native American heritage.
The final major sports franchise to adopt a Native American connection is the Chicago Blackhawks. I have always thought that this was the name of a tribe but to my surprise they claim it is the name of a real human. Of course naming a team after a real person is not derogatory, but I'll let you decide the intent with the links I have provided below.
Why the Term Indian is Offensive
As I mentioned, I explained this to my Facebook friend from Cleveland and I will expand on what I told her. Everywhere the white Europeans traveled as they tried to conquer the world and steal land from the indigenous people, they gave them derogatory names. They even did this to other white people. I can guarantee you that not one Native American called themselves an "Indian" when they encountered the first European terrorists that came to their land. They more than likely identified themselves by their tribal name.
We were taught that the reason they were called Indian is because they resembled the people of India that they had encountered in previous travels. Therefore, they called some Caribbean Islands the West Indies. Bahamians, Jamaicans, Dominicans, Haitians, and Virgin Islanders are all different. Nobody likes being called outside of their name or heritage just because they look like someone else. Just because the white Europeans made a mistake doesn't make it right. It's ok if you make a mistake the first time, but if you keep doing it, it becomes derogatory.
Native Americans have been protesting Cleveland's use of the name Indians since the 70s. Once the Native Americans said that's what they prefer to identify with, that's what you call them, just like we prefer Black or African American instead of Negro. Hell you've got a lot of people that are offended if you call them African American or Black. You call a person whatever they feel they identify with. We as Black people even lump all Africans together but they will proudly tell you which country they come from. Tiger Woods, is a good example. He doesn't identify as Black or African American.
Latinos don't like being called by the wrong country. They will tell you I am Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and so forth. Asians don't like being called by the wrong country. They will tell you I'm Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and so far. Europeans don't like being called by the wrong country. Don't confuse Italians and Sicilians.
Even as Americans we get offended if people don't recognize that we are from the United States. Canadians are proud of where they come from. We also like to break down what state we come from. We are proud of what city and even the neighborhood we are from.
Let's break it down even further to our personal names. When people ask me my name, I say Thomas or Tommy. For the first 40 years of my life, I lived in the North and I would say this and white people would call me Tom. I politely said I preferred to be called either Thomas or Tommy and they would still call me Tom. When I moved to the South, I told some people my name was Thomas and that is what they called me. They would even say "I thought your name was Thomas" if they heard someone call me Tommy and I would explain that Thomas is my birth name but most people call me Tommy. This was so fascinating and refreshing to me. I only allowed my Dad (I had no choice) and a few childhood friends to call me Tom.
I'm sure all of you have had the same experience where someone asked you where you were from, where your family is from or what your name is and they called you something other than what you told them and had to correct them. So when you equate people that owned this land before it was stolen from them to another country they probably had never heard of, maybe now you can understand why continuing to call them Indians is derogatory.
As I mentioned earlier, Washington has finally dropped the name Redskins and currently just use the name Washington Football Team until they can decide on another name they feel is appropriate. It wasn't just the people protesting that forced the change. It was the threat from sponsors and shareholders to make the change, brought on by the George Floyd protests.
On the other hand, while Cleveland has now decided to keep their name until 2022 in order to keep selling merchandise under the Cleveland Indians moniker. This is in direct conflict of the statement they released claiming they understand how they feel the name is detrimental to Native Americans. If you really feel that way, you would drop the name immediately like Washington did, not keep it for your monetary gain.
One of the greatest lines from old western movies uttered by Native Americans is "White man speak with forked tongue" meaning you say one thing but do something else. That is what the Cleveland Indians organization did by releasing that statement. Maybe it will take sponsors and people to refuse to buy their merchandise to come around also.
History of the Cleveland Franchise
- Cleveland Indians name change: History of franchise's nickname, Chief Wahoo logo and calls t
Here's a rundown of everything that led to Cleveland's decision to change its team name
25 Colleges and Universities That Have Changed Their Team Name
The Atlanta Braves Could Be Next
- Change could be on the way for Braves nickname and imagery - Talking Chop
Once the 2022 season rolls around, the Cleveland Indians will be known by another name. The Braves may not immediately follow suit, but a change may be inevitable.
Kansas City Not Ready to Change Team Name
- Kansas City Chiefs issue statement, intend to keep their nickname
The Kansas City Chiefs will not follow the former Washington Redskins' example regarding changing a nickname some find offensive.
From Philadelphia to Golden State
- The History and Evolution of The Golden State Warriors Logo
On July 17, 2010, the Golden States Warriors unveiled a new logo which they have been using to date. The team has consistently used California Golden
The Chicago Blackhawks Will Keep Their Name
- The Chicago Blackhawks won't change nickname because it honors the life of an actual Native American
Black Hawk Was a Real Native American
Cleveland to Keep Team Name Until 2022
- Cleveland Indians to continue using team name while ‘non-Native American based name’ is identified
The Cleveland Indians acknowledged on Monday afternoon intent to begin the name-changing process, but added the franchise will keep the “Indians” title until a new, “non-Native American” one is decided upon.