Views / Metro Views


Metro News globe

Metro Views

Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.

Cleveland's racist baseball identity is only part of sports' inclusivity problem

What if the current boycotts led more fans to try to become their best selves?

We'd prefer not to show the name on the front of the Cleveland catcher's jersey.

Getty Images

We'd prefer not to show the name on the front of the Cleveland catcher's jersey.

We all know sports teams have racist names.

Despite being asked repeatedly to drop them, these names abide. But now that jocks are more willing to talk about racism, maybe the time has come for teams and fans to look for more ways to bring everyone into the game.

Recall that before the Toronto Blue Jays’ current playoff series, some media, including the Jays’ radio broadcaster Jerry Howarth and Huffington Post Canada, said they wouldn’t be using the Cleveland team’s nickname. Then, on Monday, an Ontario judge declined celebrity architect Douglas Cardinal’s request to ban the team’s name.

I’d prefer not to use the name in this space, but suffice it to say that the team’s mascot, Chief Wahoo, he of toothy minstrel-show grin and a feather in his hair, is pretty much a full-card jackpot in 'Is This Racist?' Bingo.

Washington’s NFL team, Chicago’s hockey team, and Edmonton’s CFL team are also being called on to change their racist team names. The pressure to find names that are both socially conscious and emotionally evocative can lead to awkwardness like the Ottawa Redblacks (isn’t that just maroon?). That’s not to mention all the nicknames that sound as though a committee of really bored and geographically confused people chose them. What is an Orlando Magic? Where exactly in Utah are the Jazz?

The push for dramatic but problem-free names can lead to names that are offensive to users of proper grammar. I’m looking at you, Montreal Impact. In naming and renaming sports teams, we could try the system used by international soccer teams. Jays fans are, after all, cultivating an English-style hooligan culture. So: What if Edmonton’s football team was called, just spitballing here, the Edmonton Football Team? As a naming convention, it’s not exactly inspiring but Liverpool or Chelsea fans don’t seem to mind.

Such rebranding exercises would allow teams like Edmonton’s and Cleveland’s to learn important lessons about their fanbases. Anyone who was into your team precisely because it had a racially flagrant name is maybe not a fan you want.

The rest of the fans will probably stick around through a renaming, and in the process they’ll be given an opportunity to ask some overdue questions about what kinds of sports fans they want to be. It’s not enough to be upset about a team’s racist name, or even to support a change to a new one. Find out what it means to indigenous people who are #NotYourMascot.

Whether it’s demanding that your team be more environmentally conscious, that stadiums offer more accessibility, that games be affordable for low-income fans, or that a team doesn’t encourage white supremacy, there’s a way for every fan to take their seat in the stands knowing that their love of the game does some good in the world.