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Tulsa World editorial: Cleveland Indians shouldn't be last time to drop a mascot that is disrespectfully appropriated from Native American culture

Tulsa World editorial: Cleveland Indians shouldn't be last time to drop a mascot that is disrespectfully appropriated from Native American culture

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After 105 years, the Cleveland Indians is changing its name.

The name is appropriated from Native American culture, and is offensive to many.

Cleveland’s baseball team will continue to be known as the Indians — the name it has carried since 1915 — until a new name is chosen and various branding and trademarking issues are resolved, according to reporting by MLB.com. The New York Times first reported the planned name change. The earliest a new name will be used is 2022.

With the decision earlier this year of the Washington NFL team to change its name, only three major professional American sports franchises still have names appropriated from Native American culture: the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Many other minor league, college and high school teams still continue the practices, although there is progress there to, as in the recent decision by the Union school board to change it high school mascot name.

Some will argue that while the Washington NFL team's name was more clearly derogatory and offensive, the Cleveland, Atlanta and Chicago names are more neutral, perhaps even honoring Native culture.

But the history of how those names have been used proves otherwise. 

For years, the Cleveland team's logo was a cartoonish grinning Indian — Chief Wahoo. Meanwhile, in Atlanta and Kansas City, fans rally themselves with a stereotyped war chant while flaying their "tomahawk chop."

Often worse than those practices are the demeaning, offensive slogans opposing teams have sometimes used referencing teams with Native American-derived mascots.

We were strongly moved on this issue by the comments this summer of Cherokee Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Professor Hugh Foley from Rogers State University during a Tulsa World Let's Talk virtual town hall. Demeaning, stereotyped team mascots are more than tradition and team spirit. They damage the ethnic identities of young Native Americans and normalize racism against their cultures.

Such appropriation and caricature would never been accepted if they were aimed at other ethnic groups, and should be no less unacceptable when the targets are American Indians.

It took too long, but the Cleveland Major League Baseball team is doing the right thing. We hope other teams will soberly reconsider the impact of appropriated mascots and make the same choice.


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