Of Racists, Redskins, and Indians
In the aftermath of the National Football League's Washington Redskins all but explicitly declaring that they're changing their name, Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians have made a similar declaration regarding their own team name.
It seems almost as if the Indians, who retired their "Chief Wahoo" logo in 2016, have been waiting for the obviously more offensively named Redskins to finally look into changing their name before giving in themselves, or maybe it's simply more of the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. Either way it looks as if both the Redskins and the Indians, and possibly the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL) and Atlanta Braves (MLB), will be changing their names relatively soon. Maybe not in time for the upcoming seasons, in whatever form those seasons ultimately take, but probably before the next.
The term "redskin" is clearly a pejorative for Native Americans, whereas it's not as clear that the term "Indian" is. Maybe it is because they are literally not from India, but it's not as clear that the term was ever used as a term of derision for them. Regardless, I do think it's best that any team using Native American terms of any sort in their names change them. Not because I'll necessarily agree that they're offensive, but because the goal of any sport must surely be to simply play the sport. Any controversy over the name of a sports team is obviously an unnecessary distraction from playing the game.
In defense of the Cleveland Indians, however, they were named in honor of a specific Native American.
When star-player Napoleon Lajoie left his namesake team, the Cleveland Naps, in 1915, the Cleveland ball club decided that they needed a new name. They decided to call themselves the Indians, in honor of former Cleveland Spiders player Louis Sockalexis, who was a Native American.
Regardless, as I said before, I think it's best for the team, the fans, and the sport if they change the team name despite it being at least somewhat defensible.
Some people are arguing that the Indians should begin calling themselves the "Spiders" after the former Cleveland ball club, but I personally dislike that name. For starters, I just don't like it because it doesn't sound good to me. It sounds like the name of a minor league team rather than a major league team dating back to 1901.
I also don't like the historical team name argument for the "Spiders," because the Cleveland Indians were never named the Spiders; they were two separate teams. The Cleveland Spiders were a National League team, the Indians have always been an American League team, and disbanded before the Indians became a major league club.
I would even prefer to see them go back to the "Naps" instead of the "Spiders." My reasons for disliking the "Spiders" name are admittedly arbitrary and simply boil down to my own taste, but that's how I feel and I hope that they don't call themselves by that name.
My preference would be for the Indians to change their name to something starting with an "I" so that they don't have to change their logo too much, but I also don't have any good ideas along those lines.
My best idea, and I'm positive somebody else can come up with something much better, is to name them after the former minor league team from Akron, the "Aeros." Cleveland Aeros sounds better to me than the Cleveland Spiders, but, as I said, I'm sure someone could come up with something better, and ideally, to me, something beginning with an "I."
Ideally the Indians would not need to change their name, but it's not worth the endless fight over something that ultimately doesn't matter that much. And so it's time to retire the Indians name, which hasn't been particularly successful for the club regardless, and move on to newer and, hopefully, better things even if it involves eight-legged arachnids.