Cleveland’s Major League Baseball organization, currently nicknamed the “Indians”, has announced that they will at long last be rebranding away from the ‘Indians’ moniker, per a release put on the team’s Twitter profile this Monday.
“Since July, we have conducted an extensive process to determine how our team name affected different constituencies and whether it aligned with our organizational values,” the statement reads, “As a result of that process, we have decided to move forward with changing the current team name and determining a new, non-Native American based named for the franchise.”
But the conversation around the Cleveland team’s nickname, as well as the grotesque racial caricature that served as their mascot, stretches back way before this passed July. Recorded protest of the “Chief Wahoo” image go all the way back to the 1970s, though I’m certain there was unrecorded consternation with the brand before then. In 2000, the Penobscot Nation of Native Americans unanimously voted to condemn Cleveland’s use of their name and mascot, formally asking the organization to drop both. The resolution called the team’s brand an “offensive, degrading, and racist stereotype that firmly places Indian people in the past, separate from our contemporary cultural existence.” At the time, the Cleveland organization ignored this resolution (despite a copy of it being hand-delivered to their media department), and continued to use Chief Wahoo and the Indians name.
These long-overdue changes won’t go into effect until after the 2021 season, unfortunately, as the Cleveland organization figures out a new brand and nickname. This differs from the Washington Football Team, who immediately dropped their ethnic slur nickname when they decided to rebrand this past July. On the Cleveland front, now, all the Native American activists who have fought this battle for decades can do is wait and celebrate.
“To see this happen and to know that friends of mine have stood outside the stadium doors and had beer cans thrown at them and been called names just because they’re asking for sensitivity about the issue,” said Penobscot Nation citizen John Bear Mitchell, “Now, we won’t have that pain anymore.”
Dani Bar-Lavi is a genderfluid sportswriter who largely covers the WNBA. For more thoughts and opinions from Dani, check out their Twitter, their author page here, or, visit NetsRepublic or Queen Ballers Club.