Cleveland Indians Name Change: A Rebuttal

Yes, the news has finally been released: The Cleveland Indians name change is going to be official. My good friend Sam Kauffman wrote about the name change earlier today, and this is a rebuttal to Sam’s piece.

Before I get started, I want to clarify something, lest you call me a racist. I am, in fact, one-eighth Chippewa Indian, so I would think my opinion is valid and not racist in the least. I seldom write commentary anymore, and it’s been an even longer time since I have been so outraged about anything, that I sat down to rebut it. With that said, here’s my opinion.

A Cleveland Indians Name Change, but Why?

As Sam so eloquently stated in his own article, “For decades, Native American groups have asked sports teams to drop indigenous people as a mascot for their clubs. After all, Native Americans were systematically dehumanized by the United States government, which often used demeaning and offensive portrayals as it literally waged war to invade Indian Country and kill or evict the inhabitants. Many of the mascots adopted by usually white-owned sports clubs in the 20th Century used similar degrading images.

Yes, Sam, I do agree, the Native Americans were bullied off of their land and treated very unfairly. Somewhere down the line, that would have included my ancestors. For that, they now receive cash reparations, extended hunting and fishing seasons, and other governmental benefits, as the US government tried (and still tries) to make amends. Was it a fair deal? Hardly, but that was also during the time when a different mindset prevailed.

Back in the 1970s, a group called Paul Revere and the Raiders paid tribute to the indigenous Americans (specifically, the Cherokee) with a song called “Indian Reservation.” It outlines what the Native Americans endured, as they were stripped of their culture and driven across the country like cattle – undeniably a terrible thing.

Along with the Cherokee, several other tribes were also driven across the Trail of Tears, causing countless deaths. No, the end of a nation filled with Indians of different tribes doesn’t carry with it a very pretty picture.

Paul Revere and the Raiders defended the Cherokee Indian in that song, but nowhere did I ever hear lyrics about the Cleveland Indians name change.

But did the predominantly white-owned sports teams located in Washington (Redskins), Atlanta (Braves), Kansas City (Chiefs), and Cleveland (Indians), among others, maliciously name their teams? Not in my opinion. Each of those cities was rich in Native American culture, and at least some of that was recognized by the team names.

To me, the American Indian, no matter what tribe he belongs to or what name you call him by, represents a true warrior – even today, which is something that any team should aspire to be when on the field doing battle with an opponent. Yes, back in the day they even beat drums and held a tomahawk.

Come to think of it, several tribes still host jamborees (also known as pow-wows), consisting of Natives in full dress, dancing, singing, and rejoicing, all to entertain tourists. Teepees, bonfires, and feathers decorate the landscape, while bison and buffalo are served to eat. Why isn’t that considered exploitation if Natives no longer do those things? Oh yeah, self-deprecation is still allowable – just one problem – it isn’t self-deprecating, it’s culture.

For the record, I currently live not more than 15 miles from the Lac Vieux Desert Reservation (Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe), and none of the Natives I know has ever expressed any concerns about a team name.

Cleveland Indians Name Change: Political Correctness Run Amok

People are too easily offended these days, and the Cleveland Indians name change is just more political correctness run amok. No, I wouldn’t think it wise to name a German team the “Nuremberg Nazis,” nor do I think for a millisecond that there should be any sort of racial epithet in a mascot’s name (so I could see an issue with the Redskins), but I don’t think the other teams’ names were motivated by racism. Period.

Why would you drive people off of land that they rightfully settled upon, then name a team after them for any other reason than to honor them? It just doesn’t make sense. The Cleveland Indians name change doesn’t make sense either.

The city of Cleveland is located on Lake Erie, and both names (city and lake) were given by the Native Americans. Atlanta? That’s also an Indian name, as is Kansas (City). I could go on forever.

But save for the Redskins, stop to consider the names. The Braves, the Indians, even the Golden Stae Warriors – all names of pride. Cleveland was bound to succumb to the political pressure, as most others are doing, but the one-eighth of me that is Native American (I prefer Indian), couldn’t care less about those team names. Come to think of it, the other seven-eighths of me doesn’t care either. So tell me again why the Cleveland Indians name change is such an issue?

I welcome your comments.

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Ken Allison, Baseball Dept Head
Ken Allison is the senior of two MLB Department Heads, as well as a writer and editor for Overtime Heroics. A life-long MLB fan, he's also written for CubsHQ and had the opportunity to try out for the Chicago Cubs in 1986.

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