As a sports fan, the last thing anyone wants to experience is a complete reset with your favorite team by means of a team name change. Fans come to identify by their favorite team, often buying endless amounts of apparel and making themselves a part of the brand through team loyalty. In fact, we sometimes so identify with our favorite team that we can become blinded by how the team name might offend some people, as in the current cases involving teams named after Native Americans (i.e. Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins). To what extent Native Americans are offended by these names may never be known, but what we do know is that an increasing number of people each year speak up and talk about why it’s no longer OK to use human demographic labels as names for sports teams. Perhaps now, in 2020, it’s time to hit a “contemporary reset” and re-examine how people view these names, and work toward considering newer, less offensive names. And I say this as a die-hard Cleveland Indians fan who just recently saw Chief Wahoo retired, and possibly the franchise nickname next.
Language, ideas, and names change over time
Regardless of how you feel about it today, there was a time where cartoon caricatures like Chief Wahoo were widely accepted. Similarly, it wasn’t that long ago where comedians wore black face with little (if any) push back, and a wide variety of slang names were casually used to describe ethnic groups, including African-Americans and Asian-Americans. In fact, even early American (white) immigrants were once called names no longer used today. As the times change, we change as well — with our thinking, our use of language, and our behaviors. Ideally, we get better and improve as we learn more about how and when others are offended, especially in instances where we might not have known these things before.
Change can be healthy and positive
While it might be a tough thing to accept at first, the re-naming of sport franchises will not in any way hurt us as fans. We won’t become any weaker, we aren’t succumbing to negative cultural movement, and we aren’t setting sports and society back by addressing what increasingly more people feel needs changed. These future changes can be healthy and positive, and uplift those who have felt misrepresented for far too long.
Conceding (and supporting) change does not mean we gave in, let loud voices rule the day, or are giving groups an unfair power advantage. At one time St. John University were the Redmen, and now they are the Red Storm. Miami University used to be the Redskins, but are the Red Hawks today. Marquette University were the Warriors, but have been the Golden Eagles since 1994. None of these schools have experienced any declines in academics, athletics, or fan support to my knowledge, providing evidence that name changes in sports might not be as big of a deal as some might think.
If you are feeling anger and resentment over the idea that a few sport teams might possibly change their name to catch up with the times, then you might want to take pause and think about how you might feel if your ethnic group were used as a sports team name? Renaming a sports team isn’t a sign of weakness, but instead a measure that is designed to be more inclusive and inviting to all.