CHICAGO – I grew up in Akron and love the sport in Cleveland. I moved to Chicago three years ago, but sport in Cleveland still plays an important role in my life. It leads to conversations with my friends and keeps me connected to my hometown. I hugged strangers on the streets of Cleveland After the Cavs won the title in 2016, I’ve seen the Browns play in several cities across the country. And while I love all of the Cleveland sports teams, the Indians hold a special place in my heart. At a time when many people my age are no longer interested in baseball, it is still my favorite sport. Memories of the ’90s Indians and recent playoff runs are some of my most precious sports memories.
The decision to change the name of the Native American baseball team seemed like a surprise to some, but it came as no surprise to me at all. Despite my affinity for the team and the memories I have, I support the name change. It’s overdue. I used to see the name and logo only as elements of the baseball team I supported and I didn’t think about it any further. Even as a black person, I acknowledge that I have my blind spots and opportunities for growth when it comes to racing. We have to be willing to admit when we have these blind spots and acknowledge our own prejudices. I better understood the historical oppression of Native Americans and how our tradition of naming sports teams after them maintains stereotypes and dehumanizes people and their culture.
Native American history is painful. Just as the traces of slavery continue to affect the black community today, so the past of disease, violence, and displacement has left a lasting impact on Native Americans. Today, according to information, more than one in three Indian children lives in poverty the center for Indian youth. The center also reports that the average Native American household income in 2012 was only 66% of the national average, while Native American unemployment was twice the average for white Americans in 2014. For Native American youth, suicide is the second leading cause of death – 2.5 times the national rate.
The Indian community today faces legitimate challenges. To add insult to injury, we use a bastardized version of their culture for entertainment and for representing our sports teams. Studies have shown that the use of Native American images for names and logos adversely affects youth.
If you think about the name and logo in the context of our history and current circumstances, changing the name is the bare minimum we can do. The change is especially justified considering that some have questioned the oft-repeated story about the name in honor of Louis Sockalexis, a Native American who played for the club. There are a few Evidence that the nickname was meant to honor Sockalexis;; However, the circumstances surrounding the choice of the name are complicated, and some scientists have completely disproved the claim.
If you grew up with Chief Wahoo and the team name, you are not a bad person or a racist. That means you loved the team as much as I did, and you can see that these symbols represent the team itself. At the same time, changing the name doesn’t take away my or your memories of the team.
Regardless of what the Cleveland baseball team is called, we can still find a team to represent the city. We’ll still be on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario, in a half-full stadium, drinking reasonable-priced beer in the right field, and watching a 500 team lose two-to-one for having great pitching but still doing A powerful outfielder hasn’t developed in two decades. We can love them because they represent Cleveland. We can hate them because we think the Dolans are cheap. But they’ll still be Cleveland’s team, regardless of name. It is a new beginning that can be inclusive and respectful for our Native American brothers and sisters. It’s going to be a new era for Cleveland baseball and I’m excited.
Alton Lynum grew up in Akron and now lives in Chicago with his wife Teryn, where he works as a human resources specialist. He is a proud graduate of Firestone High School, holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toledo and a master’s degree from Xavier University.
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