US ‘Indians’ baseball team to drop name long considered racist

The move comes after discussions with Native American groups and decades of pressure to change the 105-year-old name.

A man wears a shirt to protest the the Chief Wahoo mascot of the Cleveland Indians baseball team [Tony Dejak/AP Photo]
A man wears a shirt to protest the the Chief Wahoo mascot of the Cleveland Indians baseball team [Tony Dejak/AP Photo]

The owner of the United States baseball team the Cleveland Indians has announced the controversial name – which has been called racist for decades – will be changed.

In an interview on Monday, the team’s owner, Paul Dolan, said the decision came after months of internal discussions and meetings with Native American groups.

The Ohio-based team has had the name since 1915.

“The name is no longer acceptable in our world,” Dolan told The Associated Press news agency.

He said the team would keep the Indians moniker and logo – a caricature of a Native American man called Chief Wahoo that has also been condemned as racist – through 2021 as they find and launch another name.

Members of the Cleveland Indians wear uniforms featuring mascot Chief Wahoo, which has been condemned as a racist image [Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]
The move comes after the American football team the Washington Redskins – a derogatory term for Native Americans – dropped their name in July amid pressure from corporate sponsors.

It also comes amid a wider racial justice reckoning in the US that has seen confederate symbols, namesakes, and statues challenged.

Dolan told the AP that the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota in May, also served as an “awakening or epiphany”.

“There is definitely some pain in this. It’s the end of an era or the beginning of an era,” Dolan said. “But accompanying that is the recognition and maybe even excitement that we’re going on to do something that is better.”

“It will be better for the community. It will be better for our team. And it will be something hopefully that unites everybody,” he said.

‘Monumental step’

In a statement, the Cleveland Indigenous Coalition, which was involved in discussions with the team, backed the decision.

“For six decades our community has fought tirelessly to be recognized as diverse and vibrant, instead of portrayed in inaccurate and harmful ways,” the coalition said.

“By agreeing to change the team name away from Indigenous themes, the Cleveland baseball team is helping to create a place where Native American children and their families feel valued and fully seen.”

Fawn Sharp, the president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) organisation, which was also involved in the talks, called the announcement “a monumental step forward in Indian Country’s decades-long effort to educate America about what respect for tribal nations, cultures, and communities entails.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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