Why is the Cleveland baseball team waiting until 2022 to make the change? Let the healing begin now
By Ken Reed
Finally, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball (MLB) team says it plans to replace its racist Indians nickname. That’s great news.
The Indigenous shouldn’t be used as nicknames and mascots for sports teams in the same way lions, bears and other animals are. Period.
But why is the Cleveland organization waiting until 2022 to make the change?
It’s mid-December, the season doesn’t start until April (or maybe May or June if the owners get their way and the season is delayed due to COVID-19 challenges). There’s plenty of time to drop the name and pick a new one.
“We believe our organization is at its best when we can unify our community and bring people together – and we believe a new name will allow us to do this more fully,” said club owner Paul Dolan in a statement.
Amen. Well done!
But wait, Dolan didn’t stop there.
“While we work to identify a new and enduring franchise name, we will continue using the Indians name (through 2021),” he said.
“Using Indians until we’re ready to unveil the new name will help the organization focus its attention on the current success of our ball club and plan for the long-term success of the new name,” explained Dolan.
Please, stop with the PR spin.
The real reason?
When in doubt, follow the money.
From the team’s website, after the announcement that the name won’t change until 2022:
“We will continue to sell selected merchandise featuring our historic names and logos, including Chief Wahoo, as a way to acknowledge our history.”
So Dolan appears to be more interested in making money off his hurtful Indians nickname and despicable Chief Wahoo caricature than he’s interested in trying to “unify our community and bring people together.” He acknowledges the name is offensive but apparently not offensive enough to stop making money off of it.
A series of studies has found that “exposure to American Indian mascot images has a negative impact on American Indian high school and college students’ feelings of personal and community worth, and achievement-related possible selves.”
That’s not good, especially since the suicide rate among Native American youth is 2.5 times the overall suicide rate.
Yes, the name Indians is less egregious than the blatantly racist name Redskins that Washington’s National Football League team used until earlier this year. But there are still many negative ramifications from the continued use of Indians as a professional sports franchise’s nickname.
“The logos are part of a larger overarching problem of how native people are represented in this country,” says Cynthia Connolly, a member of the executive board of the Lake Erie Native American Council and a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.
“We’re relegated to the historical past. We’re feathered and leathered, rather than your co-workers, your neighbors, your classmates. As a kid, the limited ways other people see you – that starts to impact you.”
Sport is a powerful socio-cultural institution. Dolan and his Cleveland franchise can positively impact society by making this change as soon as possible. There are nearly 200 schools in Ohio that still have Native American mascots. Seeing the Cleveland Indians change their nickname could spur these schools to do the right thing and drop those mascots.
Dolan is right – changing the team’s nickname is the right thing to do. So do it now and let the healing begin.
— Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans, a sports reform project. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports.
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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