The Cleveland Indians didn’t win the World Series but they did manage to keep Chief Wahoo and the moniker Indians.
Would a rose by any other name smell so sweet? Shakespeare’s question in Romeo and Juliet reminds us of the power of a name. So what’s in a sports name? When it comes to the use of indigenous names in sports, the answer is systemic racism and outdated associations. To fix this, names need to change and so do logos.
Let’s start with the Chicago Black Hawks. The name is linked to an army squadron called Blackhawk division. The squadron was named for a Native American leader who battled the United States government in the War of 1812. The backstory here goes back as far as the First World War but has no connection to the hockey team. Why are names like the Black Hawks, or symbols, such as the Cleveland Indians’ logo of Chief Wahoo, representing hockey franchises in the twenty-first century?
The Washington Redskins brand name is worth billions, according to Forbes. According to the Washington Redskins, changing their name would cost around 20 million dollars. This is why the Washington team representatives are not going to change the name, according to team president Bruce Allan.
On a local level, two-time Juno winner Ian Campeau of A Tribe Called Red was successful in getting the Ottawa Nepean Redskins football team changed to the Nepean Eagles. Campeau believed the former name was racist. Once the name was changed, Campeau urged representatives of major sports teams to stop selecting indigenous names and logos for their team.
In Brampton, a teacher asked other teachers to join the fight to ban logos and mascots that depict indigenous culture. The Port Credit Warriors and Chinguacovsy Chiefs need to take steps to change their logo.
In Mississauga, a hockey dad has counted a half a dozen teams using indigenous names and logos. Lorne Park Ojibwa was changed to Lorne Park Wild in September 2016. But according to New Credit Chief Stacey Laforme, the Chinguacovsy Chiefs the name is not an issue. This is odd. Since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Idle No More, sports names have come under fire. And rightfully so.
Back on the main stage of big league sports, The United States Congress has not made a decision on whether the Washington Redskins will have to change its name. There is more controversy over the Cleveland Indians than the Redskins.
During this year’s Major League Baseball finals, sportscasters like CBC’s radio announcer Jerry Howarth, avoided saying Indians on air.
“I will not say the whole name for Cleveland, Cleveland is who they are and Cleveland is what I will say,” said the Blue Jays play-by-play announcer.
It’s a pact Howarth made in the early 90s, so let Howarth pave the way. No more indigenous names on air. Let’s make a change that reconciles the future of major sports with the reconciliation of Canada’s past with indigenous peoples. Sport is a good place to start. Are you game?