For a time, baseball seemed to be one of the last places you could go to be free from politics and its various “accounts,” racial or otherwise. Not anymore. Just look at the jumbotron at Progressive Field in Cleveland to see a logo and team name emblematic of awakening’s triumph over America’s national pastime: the Cleveland Guardians. In professional sports, perhaps only one other team name has less character: the new Washington Commanders without an NFL mascot. Both are dull offshoots of our conformist cultural moment.
Just as the appellation “Latinx” remains unpopular (or unknown) outside of the academic ivory towers in which it originated, Native American support for these sports name changes is rapidly dwindling outside of the militant community. For example, the Spokane Indians, a minor league baseball team in Washington State, have established a close relationship with members of the local Aboriginal community. And the nearby Spokane Tribe Reservation still proudly boasts the name of its own football team, the Redskins.
This should come as no surprise. A 2016 Washington Post A poll of Native Americans found that 90% were not offended by the Washington Redskins team name. According to the Bureau of Indian Education, nearly two dozen (and likely many more) tribal high schools use similar mascots and logos.
Most Native Americans probably have mixed feelings depending on the team name and mascot. A thesis exploring the issue found that a majority of Native Americans in northeast Ohio (near Cleveland) found the major league baseball team’s mascot “problematic”, although a plurality agreed that the issue should be “set aside until other social and cultural issues are resolved.”
Progressive activists still see themselves as the anointed spokespersons (or rather mouthpieces) for these communities. “It always makes me sad to hear that indigenous people, especially tribal leaders, have been sold goods when it comes to stereotypes,” said activist Suzan Shown Harjo. New York Times. “There really is no good stereotype.” A National geographic history on the subject did not bother to include opinions other than those of activists.
For activists, the death of George Floyd in 2020 represented an opportunity. Businesses rushed to ride the waking wave before it crashed down on them. Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben and Mrs. Butterworth were among the first victims. Activists moved on to the more than 1,000 native mascots across the United States – Indians, Chiefs, Raiders, Warriors, Braves, Thunderbirds, etc.
Names and traditions may change over time; the problem arises when change is forced under self-righteous or coercive conditions. As the Cleveland and Washington examples show, such processes typically result in names and mascots that seem sterile and focused on focus groups. The former Indians franchise considered nearly 1,200 potential replacement names before deciding on the safest option possible, which perhaps wasn’t the least attractive by chance.
In 2001, Native American activists created an offensive sports mascot awareness campaign by simulating baseball caps with fictitious logos showing other ethnic stereotypes. One ad featured a Cleveland Indians baseball cap alongside caps for Jews in New York and Chinese in San Francisco. Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish myself, but truth be told, “Jews” seem more interesting to me than Guardians, although I doubt it would instill much fear in opposing teams to see fans . kvetching instead of making a tomahawk chop.
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