Call them the speech police or the cancel culture; those seemingly offended by everything are also all in on forcibly renaming professional sports teams. After having primarily concentrated such efforts on college teams with “offensive” Native-American mascot names dating back to the 1970s, it was just a matter of time before their emphasis gravitated to the NFL and MLB. Take the Cleveland Indians.
As with the replacing of the Washington Redskins by the Washington Football Team, no official trace of this historic baseball team will soon exist. Proponents of the club’s name change (like their forebearers on the college level) never represented the majority of Native Americans; however, they spoke the loudest and the longest and waited for the rest of the cancel culture to catch up with them. So, it wasn’t the least bit surprising that within hours of Washington’s decision in July, 2020, Cleveland announced that it too would begin a thorough review of its own team name.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona was on-board from the beginning; praising the team for trying to “do the right thing,” and expressing pride when the decision was confirmed.
Team owner Paul Dolan has said that the team will remain as the Indians through at least the 2021 season, and that an interim name would not be adopted until a new one is selected. He added that “Tribe,” a favorite nickname to many Cleveland fans, is not an option as the new team name. Further, the organization is stepping away from anything with a Native American connotation. This would include the “Chief Wahoo” image which has been connected with the club since 1947 at the urging of owner Bill Veeck.
The renaming decision has been coming for some time. Following the 2018 season, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and Dolan announced that the mascot would no longer appear on team uniforms or stadium signage. Yet despite all the apologetic hand-wringing, interestingly, fans can still purchase team merchandise bearing the popular image at Jacob’s Field and some Ohio retail outlets.
Back in 1953, long before political correctness cast its wide unbrella, the Cincinnati Reds changed the team’s name to the “Redlegs.” This was a time of cold war geo-political tension with the Soviet Union. Communists began to be commonly referred to as “Reds,” and the professional baseball team in Cincinnati was fearful of any negative association. Redlegs was a natural replacement as fans used the term dating back to the club’s founding as the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869. But there were still issues.
Despite the official name change, Cincinnati’s jerseys continued to contain the word Reds inside the wishbone-C on the chest until it was removed in 1956. And many fans still referred to the team as the Reds.
By 1957, Senator Joseph McCarthy, the man who hyped the “Red Scare” was dead. Cincinnati restored their well-known name for the 1959 season and “Reds” returned to the uniform inside the wishbone-C during the 1961 pennant-winning campaign.
Like Cincinnati, Cleveland is a city steeped in history. And while Native Americans used the term “firewater” to describe alcohol provided to them by the white man, perhaps owner Dolan would consider renaming his team the Cleveland Flames to commemorate the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire. The flame would make for an excellent logo and is actually quite catchy. Plus, with the post-season success the Indians have seen of late, it might even help them win a pennant. What Cleveland fan could possibly object!
Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News. Reach him a email@example.com.