As I have written about before, my absolute favorite sport is baseball. Yesterday, the baseball team presently known as Cleveland Indians announced their new nickname for the 2022 season.
Enter the Cleveland Guardians.
It took me a minute to wrap my head around the name. After a little research, I learned that the name is a reference to the “Guardians of Traffic“ – the famous landmark at the end of the Hope Memorial Bridge which spans the Cuyahoga River into Cleveland proper. It took a little time, but the name has really grown on me.
My beef with his name change is the new logo and the script itself. By no means am I a graphic designer, but they look kind of amateurish to me personally. But I guess the saving grace of that is that the team can tweak the logo or uniforms and have even more new merchandise to sell to fans over the next several years.
I am a member on several baseball fan pages on social media. And the outrage I’m hearing from fans, particularly middle-aged white men, is staggering. I understand peoples aversion to change. However, what really is shocking to me other people who can find a neither of the chief wahoo logo or the Indians nickname offensive. It’s as if they completely lack the empathy enough to realize that not everybody likes that mascot and that nickname.
It is quite clear that the organizations original intention was to simply eliminate the Chief Wahoo logo. In fact, they actually spent the last several years gradually phasing the character out of their marketing. In the teams defense, they had even gone as far as reverting some of their uniforms to a super- simple “Indians“ on their home uniforms;“ Cleveland“ on their road uniforms. The stylized Indian script that the team has been using since 1994 was becoming more of an alternate uniform option.
This is not a complaint, but it’s a fairly safe assumption that the murder of George Floyd and the civil unrest engulfed our country last year ultimately pushed the Indians to change their nickname.
Now, proponents of the nickname will see the story of Louis Sockalexis, The Cleveland hurler of Native American descent, for whom the nickname was said to be a tribute. The problem with this nickname is that “Indian“ was a misnomer. Christopher Columbus believed that he had reached India when he “sailed the ocean blue in 1492“. As a result, he called indigenous people that he found in this part of the world “Indians“. Incidentally, Sockalexis played for the Cleveland Spiders, a completely separate baseball team from the Cleveland Naps/Indians/Guardians.
I am not Native American, but I believe that I can safely say that an even bigger problem than the Indians nickname was the chief wahoo mascot. That character has always been a racist caricature. From its Crayola red skin, it’s big wide tooth grin, and the feather in his headband; none of that is based in reality. Chief wahoo had to go. His retirement was long overdue. In fact, this entire controversy over the nickname and the mascot go back for decades.
There is a great line from Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country that I have quoted elsewhere on this blog. In the movie, the Klingon General Chang says to Captain Kirk “if there is to be a brave new world, our generation will have the hardest time living in it”. Change is tough. It takes all of us a different amount of time to adjust to. But whether we like it or not, whether we’re ready for it or not, change is always coming.
Or maybe the Indians should’ve taken the path that the Washington Football Team has taken and make the transition a much more drawn out process…