It’s time. There’s never been a more opportune moment for a franchise in any sport to scuttle a nickname with — real or perceived, overt or subtle — racist aspects.
On this blog six years ago, I recommended that Cleveland drop the Chief Wahoo mascot, which the team eventually did from their uniforms but not (apparently to placate the gods of commerce) from branded merchandise.
I didn’t then advocate changing the “Indians” name, but I do now.
For many years I thought in a traditional way, that the Indians’ name and the “Tribe” identity were part of my heritage. The name has long been considered offensive by native Americans and many others, and it’s time that we Cleveland fans truly recognize it, own up to it and act.
I’m a Cleveland native, part of a family lineage that stretches over seven generations of residence in northeast Ohio. I have been a fan of Cleveland’s baseball franchise all along. Changing the name won’t sever that long bond, and it won’t dilute the memories I have of Rocky Colavito, Kenny Lofton and Francisco Lindor. Nor will changing the name erase the history of Tris Speaker, Lou Boudreau and Bob Feller.
Judging by the comments I’ve seen flashing about on social media, Cleveland fans OK with the switch are most often suggesting the name Spiders, resurrecting a nickname for the team that played in the American Association from 1891 to 1899. Marketers would have a field day with that name, and the franchise undoubtedly has others under consideration.
Buckeyes, for example. It would hearken back to a (mostly) Cleveland team in the Negro American League from 1942 to 1950. In the present day, the Buckeyes name is synonymous with teams of Ohio State University, and I’m tempted to back it because the name would certainly antagonize fans in Michigan, home of the Detroit Tigers.
But we don’t need a name to antagonize. We need one devoid of insensitivity, one that Cleveland fans can rally around without apology. Be that the Buckeyes, the Blues (another old name) or the Burning Rivers (my idea; you heard it here first!), I’m ready for a change.