Right Call

Published: December 18, 2020

By Jim Lichtman
Read More

At the end of the 2021 season, the Cleveland Indians baseball team will drop “Indians” from their name.

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

In a statement, owner Paul Dolan said, “Hearing firsthand the stories and experiences of Native American people, we gained a deep understanding of how tribal communities feel about the team name and the detrimental effects it has on them.”

National Congress of American Indians president, Fawn Sharp, said in a statement (Dec. 14), “Today’s announcement represents a monumental step forward in Indian Country’s decades-long effort to educate America about what respect for tribal nations, cultures, and communities entails, and how sports mascots like the ‘Indians’ prevent our fellow Americans from understanding and valuing who Native people are today, what makes us unique, and the many contributions we make to this country.”

“The genuine commitment the team has made to listen to and learn from Indian Country over the past several months is to be applauded, and the process the team used should serve as a blueprint for sports teams and schools across the nation as this movement for racial justice and inclusion continues to grow.”

“The Oneida Indian Nation in New York, which led the Change the Mascot campaign against the Washington Football Team’s former nickname, called the Cleveland change a ‘commendable decision,” Reuters reports (Dec. 14).

“ ‘This is the culmination of decades of work,’ Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said in a written statement. ‘Social science has made clear these names are harmful and Cleveland got out in front of it’ ”

“Stephanie Fryberg, a member of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington State,” Reuters continues, “and a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, said that team names and traditions that ‘romanticize’ Native American lives are harmful.

“ ‘When you romanticize us, you don’t take us seriously … it’s like seeing us through some Disney ‘Pocahontas’-type representation. We are real people,’ said Fryberg, whose research shows that native mascots in particular are especially harmful to native children, leading to lower self-esteem.”

The Cleveland announcement comes the same week that Major League Baseball announced that the records of negro leagues players will be added to the MLB statistics.

“All of us who love baseball have long known that the Negro Leagues produced many of our game’s best players, innovations and triumph against a backdrop of injustice,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

“We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as Major Leaguers within the official historical record.

We come from an independent, courageous, and diverse group of people; a people that continues to evolve toward a more perfect union with a core set of values that has brought about civil rights as well as liberty.

Commenting on the name change to the Cleveland ball club, Washington Post columnist, Hugh Hewitt, writes, “I’ll cheer for whatever the team is ultimately called — because…it’s a wonderful game and because a name should not be allowed to divide that which binds it.”


  1. Earlier names for the Cleveland team include the Bluebirds, Lake Shores, and Naps, among others. A forerunner in the National League was the Spiders while the Federal League team was the Cleveland Green Socks (managed by Cy Young, no less). Being partial to St. Louis and the Cardinals – and without infringing on the Toronto team – the Cleveland Bluebirds works for me; though I do like the Green Sox, too.

Leave a Comment