Opinion: Sports teams should keep Native American themed names

With the recent decision to change the name of the Cleveland Indians, sports are heading down the wrong path.

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Keithan Sharp, Editor-in-chief

The Cleveland Indians announced this week they will be dropping the name “Indians” from their franchise and will replace it with a new, non-Native American based name. This follows the decision of the Washington Football Team to remove the “Redskins” nickname and rebrand away from Native American imagery. 

If sports teams continue along this path, there will be no Native American references in culture and Native Americans will be erased from society without acknowledgment. The Cleveland Indians have been called the Indians since 1915; 105 years of baseball, two world championships and a rich community of passionate fans was not enough to keep cancel culture out of baseball.

The lesson to be learned from these recent name changes is that money talks. The Redskins changed their name after corporate sponsors like Nike and Walmart threatened to stop selling team merchandise. Teams aren’t rebranding themselves for the “right” reasons, they’re doing it to keep the profits coming. 

There is much disagreement over the origin of the Indians’ name, but the most common theory is that they were named after Louis Sockalexis, a member of the Penobscot Tribe and Cleveland baseball player, who was the first Native American to play professional baseball. What started out as an honor is now seen as racist and offensive and that is a scary trend for American society.

Yes, Native Americans were mistreated for centuries and their culture has been laden with inaccuracies and misrepresentation- even the term “Indians” is geographically inaccurate. However, as much as people would like to forget and apologize for the treatment of Natives, it won’t simply disappear by removing all references to Native Americans.

Teams like the Indians and Redskins were in a powerful position. They had the opportunity to stand up to corporate pressure and educate their communities about the history of Native Americans, but they walked away from the moment. Instead, by changing their names and promising to remove all Native American references, they are establishing Native American culture as taboo and removed from our modern-day lives.

To be “politically correct” is an honorable goal; to lead a life that offends nobody and welcomes all is something everyone should strive for. But when political correctness means erasing history and tradition, it has gone too far. Nobody can change how Native Americans were treated, but they can be honored through references and team names in our society. For many years, Native Americans were called Indians. This is a historical fact and is no reason to change the name of the Cleveland baseball franchise. It is disgraceful that people are more comfortable rewriting and removing history than they are standing up against political correctness and cancel culture.