December 13, 2020

Cleveland Decides To Change Its 105-Year-Old Racist Nickname, Possibly As Soon As 2022

Cleveland's baseball team has finally made the decision to change its racist nickname, according to a report in the New York Times. The nickname has been in use since 1915.

The long-overdue news comes after decades of protest led by Native American groups. Cleveland's decision may have been made somewhat easier after Washington's NFL team stopped using a racist slur as a nickname. Also, this past summer, much of the US was forced to take a much clearer look at the country's systemic racism.

Cleveland may officially announce its plans as soon as this week. One of the three anonymous persons who spoke with the Times said Cleveland plans to keep the current name for the 2021 season but may adopt a new name for 2022. While the team reduced its use of "Chief Wahoo" before the 2019 season, it continued selling merchandise featuring the racist caricature.

Interestingly, hours after the Times' report was uploaded, there was still no mention of the news on MLB's main webpage and nothing on the Cleveland team's main page. These screenshots were taken at on 2:20 AM, Monday (ET).

The traditional story, which the team still promotes, of the franchise honoring former player (and member of the Penobscot Nation) Louis Sockalexis, is a myth.

As Tyler Carey wrote this past summer, Cleveland had been known for years as the Naps (after star infielder Napoleon Lajoie). However, the 40-year-old Lajoie batted only .258 in 1914 and was traded to the Philadelphia A's.

The Cleveland club felt it could not continue to name itself after a now-opposing player, so it decided to go back to the drawing board. Owner Charles Somers once again solicited the help of the city's sportswriters, hoping to settle on a brand once and for all.

Unlike the process that selected "Naps," the new moniker was to still be solicited from fan suggestions, but this time it would be the team and the writers who made the final decision. The publications received hundreds of ideas, ranging from staying with the old nickname to things like "Foresters," "Tornadoes," "Commodores," "Rangers," "Sixers," and "Harmonics." Yet, as [author Terry] Pluto writes, none of the papers mentioned "Indians" as a published suggestion.

This is where things get tricky, and where the signs of the times likely come into play. The 1914 season had been an historic one for baseball, as the Boston Braves had stormed back from last place and 12.5 games down to swipe the National League pennant before stunning the Philadelphia A's in the World Series. The "Miracle Braves" captured the hearts of fans in New England and around the country . . .

Historians seem to agree Somers and the writers saw this as a dream brand opportunity . . . Obviously, an exact ripoff of the Braves would've been impossible, so the group went with what they saw at the next-best thing . . .

As Pluto recounts, The Plain Dealer and The Sporting News correctly mentioned that the new moniker was one carried by the Spiders for a time, while The Cleveland News even directly mentioned the Braves in hoping Cleveland's hapless team [which had finished last in 1914] could "show just as much reversal of form" as the unlikely champs. Yet when the announcement of the change was made, none of the papers mentioned Sockalexis until The Plain Dealer did so in a small January 1915 write up, after the fact.

Also, Trump takes a quick break from his seditious activities:


johngoldfine said...

I was with you for years when you revived the old Spiders moniker. But this morning I'm coming around to the Cleveland Cuyahogas, Cleveland Lakeshores, or Cleveland Eries.

FenFan said...

Interesting follow-up to this: apparently a couple of entrepreneurs filed paperwork within the past year regarding the names Cleveland Spiders and Cleveland Baseball Team (akin to the Washington Football Team).

Again, I would not be opposed if Cleveland reached out to Native American tribes from the area and truly honored their legacy with a more appropriate name, much like what Florida University and the Chicago professional hockey team did with the Seminoles and Blackhawks, respectively.

GK said...

I want to go with Cleveland Midges. In honor of Joba Chamberlain and the Yankees of 2007.

Paul Hickman said...

They cannot go through 2021 called Indians, IF, they finally now claim it is unacceptable !!! That would be Farcical.

Surely they can go a "halfway house" like Washington did ?

How about in "honour" of the Hopeless Non Leader ..... the Cleveland Dumps !

Douglas said...

I am also looking forward to your thoughts on the Negro Leagues being designated as major leagues.

allan said...

I keep meaning to post about that.

laura k said...

I agree with Paul Hickman. It has to end immediately. However, we might see fans do just the opposite -- go crazy flaunting the racist logo more than ever. Which is a lot.