Professional sports teams change their problematic names

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Photo by Fuad Hassan (via Fair Use)

The new logos of The Washington Football Team and The Cleveland Baseball Team represent the changes both teams have made in order to foster an inclusive—and non-racist—environment.

Native Americans have been the subjects of prejudice and hate since the arrival of Europeans to North America. Over time, society has been progressing forward and now sports teams who for so many years had racially insensitive names and mascots are evolving. 

In July of 2020, the Washington Football Team for the NFL changed their former problematic name, hence their temporary preferred nomenclature. The title was changed because it was a slur used, and still used today, against Native Americans. A new permanent mascot has not been decided yet, and it is possible that their name going into the 2021-2022 season could continue to be the Washington Football Team. NFL fans in Heights reacted to the change.

“At first, I didn’t even know the old logo’s racist history and I was simply uneducated,”  Kevin Bermeo (12) said. “But after finding out the news of the name change, I researched the old name’s past and I am glad that it is gone from the NFL.”

The MLB team for Cleaveland, Ohio have also decided to change their name after the 2021 season. Their previous racist logo, which depicted a Native American with exaggerated features, was already removed in 2018. 

These changes were made due to all the efforts and protests made by the Native American community and their allies. Hundreds of Native American people and their supporters protested against the racist names and logos at games where the teams were playing. The president of the National Congress of American Indians, Fawn Sharp, wrote a letter in June of 2020 directed at the Washington Football Team to change their mascot. 

“The racial slur can no longer be removed by the complicit, indifferent, tone-deaf ownership of the franchise, because the stain they have fixed onto their own name and enterprises is now permanent,” Sharp said. “It is an insult that can no longer be retracted, a sin that can no longer be erased.” 

A movement arose from the protests called #notmymascot. Its goal was and still is to remove the racial stereotypes in mascots in teams from all sports in all levels. Finally, with the removal of the Washington Football Team and Cleveland Baseball Team’s racist mascots, the movement has made huge progress. Native American students in Columbia Heights High School responded to the news.

“I am so happy to see the change after years of work by my people,” Calvin Harper (12) said. “This is a big step in social change for Native Americans, and I hope society continues on this path.”

The two teams made the change to get rid of names, logos and mascots that represented negative racial stereotypes against Native Americans, and to hopefully inspire other teams to do the same. Changes are being discussed on teams even at the high school level, like at Anderson High School in Cincinnati, which shares the same mascot name that the Washington Football Team had.

Native American efforts have been successful in changing two team names, but their fight to end racial stereotypes elsewhere in sports, from offensive chants to grotesque merchandising, continues. Other professional sports teams have made statements saying they would not change their mascot, such as the Kansas City football team for the NFL and the Chicago hockey team for the NHL. Both teams did say that they will put effort into promoting awareness and respect for Native Americans, but it may be hard to get past their racist titles and mascots.

  The future of racist sports teams’ names changing is optimistic as the Native American community continues to see success. Their goal of removing these titles and being treated as human beings rather than mascots now seems more attainable than ever.