A hot-button issue in American sports over the past couple of years has been the use of Native American imagery in sports.
There has been a debate between people who view their use as nicknames or logos as insensitive or racist against people who think they’re just an identity of a sports team and there is no harm meant with them.
Being a Cleveland Indians fan, I have been paying close attention to this issue as it has unfolded. The Indians just unveiled their uniforms for the 2019 season, and the biggest change was the absence of the controversial logo, Chief Wahoo.
Even though the logo has been around since 1948 and has a lot of history in Cleveland, the Chief had to go.
As a white, middle-class male, I obviously had never felt offended by the logo. Over time, I became educated and realized that while I might not personally feel anything negative about the logo, there is a large population in this country that does find it really offensive.
So, that’s where I stand in this debate. I think that there are several examples of imagery that need to go, including Chief Wahoo and Washington Redskins, but the majority of names and logos should be able to stay if done right.
When I think of names that are worthy of a team, a good name is something that is strong, respected and relates to aspects of whatever sport a team is playing.
While animals like Bears or Tigers are popular and safe choices, human-based names are also solid choices. Nicknames like Spartans and Vikings invoke thoughts of fearless people who are difficult to conquer on the field.
Native American names fall into this category. Native Americans are strong warriors who showed intense bravery throughout their history, a great identity to represent your sports team with.
Not to mention, Native Americans, as their name suggests are from America, so there’s a local tradition that these names highlight ethnicities that other places can’t provide.
Now, I do think how names are used and treated should be changed. There should be no names with racial slurs or logos featuring exaggerated caricatures as those do not show Native Americans the respect they deserve.
Fans need to stop coming to games for these teams, dressed in “redface,” wearing headdresses and chanting war whoops, or ridiculing rituals.
Pro sports teams should look to colleges to see what is the right way of doing things, specifically Florida State University and Central Michigan University. Both of these institutions utilize Native American names for their sports teams.
The difference here is that they have reached out to local tribes to ask what they view as respectful, even integrating them into decisions. There are educational links on their sites about these tribes and what appropriate fan behavior is at games.
Pro teams should look to these universities to set an example in their leagues. They should bring in local tribes to the conversation and have productive dialogues that can make positive change.
There is a way to all come together and work this out for both sides.
Jackson Rogers is a fourth-year media communication major.