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Baseball's Big News

[ Posted Wednesday, December 16th, 2020 – 17:31 UTC ]

It's a pretty rare day when I devote an entire column to sports. But today has to be one of those days, because Major League Baseball just took two giant steps forward that will right two historic wrongs that simply had no right to still exist in the year 2020. The Cleveland Indians announced they were dropping their racially-insensitive name, and the league finally decided to overturn a decision made 51 years ago and include the Negro Leagues in their official definition of what constituted a "major league" in the sport. Both, as I said, were two giant leaps forward for equality and inclusiveness, and both should be duly celebrated.

This all goes back to the very first time I wrote about sports for an entire column, way back in 2007. And I have to say that I am downright astonished that it has all changed so fast, although 13 years may not sound fast at all. But to be honest, I didn't expect any of it to change in my entire lifetime, so I have to say it was faster than I thought it would happen.

The column I wrote back then was called "Native Americans, Inc.," and it was one of those "modest proposal" columns about how major league sports had a glaringly racist problem with some of their team names and logos. The team name I used as the worst example was the Washington Redskins, and the worst logo was from the Cleveland Indians (the incredibly and patently offensive "Chief Wahoo").

This year, sports announcers have struggled with the Washington football team's name, because the team decided that while they were indeed going to eventually change their name, they would use an interim placeholder name for one year (while they considered their options): the "Washington Football Team." Actually, when you think about it, even that is truly an appropriate name for a D.C. team. If anything, American sports teams are supposed to name themselves after some local identity, after all (like the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Green Bay Packers, or the San Francisco 49ers, for example). So what better name to signify the local industry -- which is, after all, government bureaucracy -- than a hard-to-pronounce awkward bureaucratic name that sounds like a committee dreamed it up? "Washington Football Team" is really perfect, in a hilarious sort of way. It's like the old "Department of Redundancy Department" joke from Monty Python, when you think about it.

Next year, assumably, the W.F.T. will doubtlessly come up with a new identity more in line with how American teams choose their names. But the positive thing remains: they are not named after a seriously odious and racist slur anymore. That is progress.

And now, the Cleveland Indians have also chosen to retire their name. They actually retired Chief Wahoo two years ago, so this is a continuation of the baby step they took back then (seriously, unlike even the Redskins' logo, the Indians' logo was unbelievably offensive and racist). But this is truly the final step that needed to be taken, so good for them for doing so. We're now at the point where this isn't even really a political issue, because beyond Donald Trump few Republicans or conservatives will fight to keep racist team names. Hugh Hewitt, an Indians and Browns fan, wrote today that he couldn't care less if they changed the name, because it was the team itself that the fans loved, no matter what they choose to call themselves. Which was encouraging to see, from such a strong conservative media voice.

But we're not done yet. There are future name changes that still need to happen in big-league sports. The Atlanta Braves. The Kansas City Chiefs. The Chicago Blackhawks. There are probably others as well, those were just the ones I saw pointed out today by HuffPost. Each of these may seem less offensive to White (or Black or Latino, for that matter) people, but the whole point is that we shouldn't get to decide. Only the Native Americans should. It should be their call entirely.

The other big change in baseball is more of an institutional one. Apparently, the last time the league even talked about who to let in to their own definition of "major leagues" was all the way back in 1969. To say that racial attitudes were a wee bit different back then is like saying the surface of Pluto is a wee bit colder than Anchorage.

Back then, they refused to allow the Negro Leagues entry into their official designation. They allowed one league in which only had a single season, back in the 1800s, but they refused to let the Negro Leagues in. This must have been a contentious decision at the time, because it was only two years later, in 1971, that the Baseball Hall Of Fame voted to allow Negro League players to be inducted as full Hall Of Famers (there was a proposal for a "separate but equal" arrangement, but thankfully it got shot down).

So what today's announcement means now is that all the Negro Leagues official games (not including the many exhibition games they staged) will be included in the official baseball record books. When you see lists of "top 10 players all-time" for any statistic from now on (RBIs, ERA, batting average, homeruns, whatever), the Negro League players -- even those not in the Hall Of Fame -- will be included in these lists. That's a big deal, because some of them are indeed in the top 10 of the all-time stats listings.

You can criticize these changes for taking so long to happen (which is a valid point -- these changes were long overdue), but I instead choose to celebrate the fact that they are being made at all. Baseball and all the other major league sports are slowly being dragged into the "woke" era, and that's a good thing, no matter how long it took to happen. Or how it did happen, for that matter. Nike and FedEx reportedly were the ones who pressured the Washington Football Team's owner into making the switch (Nike makes all the wearable merchandise for football and decided they'd no longer make "Redskins" souvenirs, and FedEx threatened to take their name off the team's stadium). But it doesn't matter what it took, it happened, and now we can all move towards a more respectful and inclusive future in major league sports.

So all in all, it's been a pretty good season for baseball news. The only odd part is that it happened in December, when any baseball news is usually pretty non-existent.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


11 Comments on “Baseball's Big News”

  1. [1] 
    andygaus wrote:

    There was a funny editorial cartoon a while back, I forget who by, suggesting some additional offensive team names we could have if that's what we like. The only one I remember was "the Juneau Jews."

  2. [2] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    I admit I don't follow sports, but what you say sounds good.

  3. [3] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Loud and Proud Libtard that I am, y'all know that I also despise excessive Political Correctness. Of course, just what excessive PC is is a matter opinion, my Borat-style "Pogrom" joke from the other week being a case in point. Recognizing the Negro leagues as "separate but equal" is the more significant of the two as Negro league athletes now get the recognition for their accomplishments long denied them by American racism.

    (For the record I hate EPC because:

    (1) it creates snowflakes who need the protection of "safe zones" and,

    (2) plays right into the Repug's hands as they beat us Libs over our heads to distract and divide Americans. You know, so we don't pay attention to the rich folks takeover of our country.)

    Having said that I do agree that in this case our Native Americans should have the right to oppose names like "Redskins" and that We the People should respect their wishes. But there are numerous Native American schools who call themselves "Indians" and whatnot, the difference being that they decide, not some billionaire NFL owner.

  4. [4] 
    John From Censornati wrote:


    Republicans police language as much or more than anybody else. They're just extremely hypocritical about it (shocking!). You've fallen into their trap when you associate "EPC" exclusively with Libs.

  5. [5] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    My local High School is dropping "Indians" as their name, and the locals are agonizing over what to adopt as the replacement, but the irony of this particular whole PC nightmare is, the High School and the city are both named after an Indian chief, and nobody's suggesting we rename the city !!

  6. [6] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Life must be good there if that's what qualifies as a nightmare.

    It's really not that difficult to understand why it's OK to name a town after a specific person while it's not OK to call a bunch of non-Indians Indians. They should re-name the team the Genocidal Caucasians. There's nothing offensive about that.

  7. [7] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John F C

    Can't do that, there are Indians enrolled there who obviously wouldn't qualify as "G C's", plus there's no alliteration in that name. You'd have to go with 'Corrupt Caucasians', or maybe 'Genocidal Genitals'.

  8. [8] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Alliteration is not required (Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins). In addition, my home town (named after a chief) team was called the Indians and there were no Indians enrolled, so apparently the ethnicity of enrollees is also irrelevant. I'm pretty sure the Indians would not be the ones objecting to my suggestion.

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    maybe we could change the name of indiana. indianapolis could change twice.

    anyhow, baseball made some news earlier in the year when the miami marlins named kim ng the first ever female general manager in MLB history.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  11. [11] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    I had multiple discussions with Crow Nation members when I lived on their reservation about team names and mascots and if they found them offensive. Here’s what I learned:

    They LOVED the Braves! Think about it... that term was not meant to belittle Native Americans; it was a term of respect that they earned on the battlefield.

    The Crow have a wicked sense of humor that was found in all of the tribal members that I met. They know how to take a joke and are quick to make one.

    They did not see most mascots as an attempt to mock their heritage (Redskins being the one exception). A team’s mascot is a source of pride for it’s fan base, so it’s not likely that any team would call themselves the “Drunk Injuns” or some other negative connotation.

    Naming a team the “Chiefs” made no sense to them. A team made up of only chiefs would not be very successful as they would all think they were in charge. “Whitey is not that bright!”

    The Florida State Seminoles warrior chant, AKA the “Tomahawk Chop”, was awesome. It was used to intimidate the enemy and to pump up your warriors for battle! They asked me why I thought that should offend anyone?

    As Pastor PrettyOnTop summed it up 25 years ago— When these mascots are tossed aside (and he believed they would be eventually) into the dust bin of history, what will become of Native Americans being recognized in this country? Will they no longer exist in most Americans’ minds? While he knew the Redskins name started out as a racist slur, did the team use it in that manner? No, he did not think so. Sadly, at the time, these team mascots were the only positive representation of natives in media.

    Fortunately, things have changed somewhat in the last 25 years. My favorite Hulu show, “Letterkenny” has close to half of its characters that are from indigenous tribes... and they are incredibly thought out, three dimensional characters. No other show has included tribal members as key characters to their stories the way that Letterkenny has. But that is only one show, and while it is greatly appreciated, Pastor PrettyOnTop’s point remains important: without the mascots, will Native people fade from our memories until they are forgotten?

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