Over the past few years, we have started to rid our culture of names and traditions that have problematic backgrounds. Among these, sports team names have been criticized for racist connotations.
The debate over team names and logos is symbolic of the country’s fight against normalized racism. Teams need to embrace change and abandon racist names and logos in order to promote team spirit in a more inclusive and appropriate way.
Recently, the former Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians decided to change names after years of public pressure. According to ESPN, the Washington Football Team announced their intention to change their name from the Redskins in July 2020. The team’s logo depicted an offensive caricature of native peoples that furthered racist stereotypes. Teams have been scrutinized by Native Americans themselves, which has also prompted name changes.
According to Miami University, they changed their team from the Redskins to Redhawks in 1998. The university made the change after the Miami Tribe requested that they find a new name. However, Washington’s name change was not made for the same reasons.
The Washington Post reported that Nike and FedEx pulled their sponsorships one day before the announcement of the name change. The team changed their name because it hurt their earnings, not because it was offensive to Native Americans. In response to the change made by Miami University, the professional teams that shared the same racist title should have also changed their name. Instead, several professional and college teams continued to disrespect the Native American tribes.
When Washington finally succumbed to public pressure, many other teams followed by changing their names as well. The Cleveland Indians changed their name to the Guardians, in large part because of the precedent set by Washington. The Cleveland Indians also eliminated the “Chief Wahoo” logo, a racist representation of a Native American chief. Although Washington prompted other teams to reconsider their own names, the changes should have been done sooner.
The pressure to change offensive names is not exclusive to professional teams. Colleges across the country are considering changing their names as well. On Oct. 1, Capital University changed their logo from the Crusaders to the Comets.
Capital acknowledged the negative connotation of the Crusaders by removing them as their mascot. According to Bizjournals, Capital University president Dave Kaufman declared that the comet is a much better representation of the speed and spirit of the school.
According to The Ohio House of Representatives, Democrats Adam Miller and Jessica Miranda introduced a bill August 2021 calling for high schools across the state to change their culturally inappropriate names. If passed, the State Board of Education would force schools to do the correct thing and move away from offensive team names.
Team names and logos are supposed to encourage team spirit among sports fans, not discriminate against them with racist imagery.