What’s in a name? On Redskins, Indians and Braves

== Team Names – I dare to weigh in ==

cleveland_indians_wallpaper-29780At some risk — and no conceivable benefit — but as a distraction from politics, I have something to offer regarding the controversy over whether to change the names of sports teams that appear to demean ethnic groups. Keeping things simple, I’d propose a simple rule of thumb.

If the name trivializes or mocks or derides, it should go.  If the symbolism is belittling and mocking, it should be punished as soon as possible.

If the name appropriates an ethnicity that subsumes a whole people, it should probably go… unless it’s done with so much respect and consultation that those people sign on and give their okay. Which seems highly unlikely.

But if it is instead a profession that provides the name… something that men and women have chosen as their line of work, then the issue, I believe, is whether it is done with respect.

UnknownSo how do things parse out?  Clearly, the name “Redskins” falls into category one. There is no way on Earth it isn’t simply offensive racism. Come on. Do the right thing. It’s inevitable… so get it over-with and choose a new name that fires up home town zealotry for the team’s region…

“Gooooooooo Bureaucrats!”


On the level of symbolism, on the other hand, the example images above show that the Redskins have made real efforts to depict nobility while the Cleveland Indians are clueless. Either way, sorry… it’s too late.  Accept it.

At the opposite extreme is the team name: Atlanta Braves. A “brave” is not strictly-speaking an ethnic group, it could be regarded as a profession.  Packers, Steelers, Oilers,  Cowboys, Raiders, Pirates… One can argue that the name is a tribute to the same admirable qualities — agility and boundless courage — that inspired the creators of the fantastic Crazy Horse sculpture in South Dakota.  Efforts have been made to modernize the imagery.

In this case, the issue might revolve around — is the respect and admiration genuine?

Still, having pointed out that distinction, I do believe that – regarding this controversy – I am in no position to judge or declare right or wrong.  If my point about “a profession” were to persuade some Native American people to negotiate an advisory panel with the club, leading to deeply respectful symbolism that satisfied all sides, might the name be saved?

But barring that, well, a name that offends millions ought to go.

220px-StephenGroverClevelandSame with the Cleveland Indians.  For heaven’s sake. You Clevelanders already have a new mascot ready to go!

tumblr_ma5h10FSDt1qbmmu7o1_400Come on, ain’t it obvious?

Just call yourselves the Cleveland Grovers!


1 Comment

Filed under science, society

One response to “What’s in a name? On Redskins, Indians and Braves

  1. Surprised that the Chicago Black Hawks of the NHL seem to be evading this sort of attention for the moment…or am I not reading the most accurate reports on the subject yet?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s