Indians and the naming of sports teams.

It’s been an ongoing issue for a few years, but not one that I’ve seen discussed here in the recent past. Here’s the article that brought me to bring it up, from the Dallas Morning News:

Will Indian icons stay on the team? **(Link to search for article: registration required.)

Posted article abridged. Please do not post copyrighted articles in their entirety.**

I personally am a liberal, but a staunch opponent of PCness.

I’m white. Indians are Indians. Blacks are blacks. Hispanics are browns. Asians are Asians. Whatever, I’m just not going to call any ethnic group by some horribly sensitive name. Hell, i’d call Indians ‘reds’ were it not for the whole communist thing and Asians yellows were it not for the whole cowardice thing.

Most blacks are no more African than I am French, and I even have a French passport due to birthright (in case of the draft, hehe). I don’t demand to be called Euro-American and likewise I think African-American is BS.

If you want to talk skin color, talk skin color. If you want to talk nationality, talk nationality.

But all of that aside, I think the idea of re-naming sports teams because it might offend someone is garbage. Being in Dallas, I hate the Redskins (Foreskins), but would hate to see their name changed. Similarly, I’d hate to see Cleveland (MLB), Atlanta (MLB), FSU (NCAA), and other get their names changed because of a few righteous protestors.

Could it be potentially offensive? Sure, but so could most team names. Hell, the Minnesota Vikings I’m sure offend someone out there.

Here in Dallas there was a big hubbub a few years ago over a ‘Whites Only’ plaque that was kept over a water fountain, obviously not to mean such but as a sign of times gone by. A sign of our history.

Do storied sports franchises not earn that same right?

This sort of PCness, well hell all PCness, irks me. Please tell me why I’m horribly wrong.

As much as it pains me as a 'Skins fan to say this but I agree with you, a CowGirl’s fan. In the words of Billy Shakespeare "“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other word would smell as sweet.”
–From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Hail to the Redskins!

Yep. Americans would never tolerate names like:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Syracuse Orangemen, or as the OP noted, the Minnesota Vikings. I’m all for getting rid of cartoon sterotypes as mascots, but I don’t see anything wrong with respectful representations. Of course, I’m not American Indian, so I guess I may not be the best judge.

Although, I don’t want to be lumped in with the OP’s “no PC, none of the time” stance.


Yeah, but what is the purpose of not changing them? Who does it hurt to change the Indians or the Redskins to something else? Nobody. Or at least nobody who is being rational about it. Whereas we know who it hurts to leave them the way they are. It seems plain to me what the utilitarian response would be, and I see no reason which would counsel against accepting that response.


Atlanta’s minor league team from 1901 until 1965 were the Crackers.

They were so hugely successful, and so closely associated with the city, that Atlanta’s Negro league team was called the Black Crackers.

Homer: Not if you called them stench blossoms!

Bart: Or stick-weeds!

P.S. I forgot to note in my post that Syracuse did recently change their nickname from the Orangemen to the Orange, but it was more of a marketing decision than a political one - even though the Orangemen nickname originated from the school’s Protestant roots.


Some of this makes sense. But when Marquette University changed their team name from the Warriors to the Golden Eagles in the '80s, things got ridiculous. I mean, even if you buy the whole PC thing, isn’t having noble warriors in one’s past something to be proud of.

Good news: After the school board in Nyack, NY, voted to change the name and logo of the high school’s Nyack Indians, people took the matter into their own hands. You can now by school rings and logowear with the old name and logo privately.

Ain’t America great?!

Could be a problem for the Okemos School District near me. The team is called the Okemos Chieftains. Okemos was a Native American chief.

One more thing – the Notre Dame and Syracuse nicknames were crafted by people of that group – they were originally statements of tribal identity, if you will. I doubt very much there were any Seminoles in the Athletics Department at Florida State who thought the name would be a good idea. There’s a big difference between “we are X” and “let’s name a team after some group that none of us belong to because they have a reputation for savagery.”

I assume the Vikings are a somewhat similar situation, but even if not, vikings were neither oppresed by the U.S. government nor libeled by the U.S. popular media in the way American Indians have been. So there is reason to be sensitive to slights against Indians that we would not find as offensive if said about other groups.


People generally name their sports teams after something that they respect whether it be an animal or a group of people. I think the hubub over native names for teams is less about offense and more about an attempt at exerting power. Any complaints about silly looking mascots is without merit in my opinion. Pretty much all mascots are silly looking.


I dispute that this was the original (or even current) intent behind many of these team names. In particular, the Cleveland Indians logo does not suggest this sort of reverence for Native Americans. At least not to me anyway.

Also, I’ll sign my name to everything Cliffy’s written in the thread to this point.

These are good points, but I was trying to refute the guy in the article’s claim that Americans would never stand for such names. This issue doesn’t really push my buttons much either way, but I do think your “what is the purpose of not changing them?” view is a little simplistic. Let’s not forget, college sports is a huge business. And like other businesses, branding is very important to them. So what is Florida State to do? One group says it’s okay and honors their traditions, another finds it offensive. Do they spend and potentially lose millions of dollars making the changes based on the offended group? And how large does a group have to be before changes should be made? What if other groups object to other non-Indian nicknames that they find offensive? Where is the line drawn, and how much do the schools have to spend/lose on these changes before enough will be enough?

I’m not trying to get all slippery slope on you, I’m just trying to point out it’s more complicated than “why not just change it”.

No, but the tribe as whole seems to think so:

I think it’s worth noting that there is a difference between calling a team “Warriors” and “Redskins.” I’ve never heard Indians (Native Americans) fond of the term. I’d liken it to The “Fighting Irish” or the “Filthy Mics.”

Oh…I’m Irish.

As someone who sometimes reads about this on the other side of the Atlantic I’d be interested in the reasoning behind these names being offensive (to the ethnic groups being referred to).

I could understand an ethnic reference being offensive if

  • the wording of the reference is, in itself, considered an ethnic slur, or
  • the entity that references the ethnic group in its name is despised by society, or
  • the reference stereotypes the ethnic group
    but none of this seems to apply, from what I can see.

[Hijack]My Grandfather played for the Crackers before WW2. I love the memoribilia he kept. I thought the name was pretty funny actually.[/hijack]

My great-grandfather played semi-pro ball in the teens and twenties, but he wasn’t nearly good enough to play for a team as big as the Crackers, let alone the major leagues.

Your grandfather must have been one hell of a ballplayer.

As I wrote in the recent “Worst Sports Team Name/Logo” thread, which I would link to if I knew how, please refer to the March 4, 2002 edition of Sports Illustrated magazine, “The Indian Wars” by S.L. Price with a sidebar by Andrea Woo, pp 66-72. Those articles reported that according to a poll by the Peter Harris Research Group, that with a margin of error of plus or minus 4%, 83% of the Indians polled said that professional teams should not stop using Indian nicknames, mascots or symbols. When pollsters asked Native Americans about the Washington Redskins, the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves they found no great resentment toward the names. Putting it charitably, the authors said that there’s a near total disconnect between Indian activists and the rank and file Native American population on this issue.

I say if the great majority of Indians aka Native Americans aka Cherokee, Sioux, etc, aren’t offended by the sports teams’ names then there’s no reason for this white male to be offended by them either.

Most of the ones that could have been connoted as a slur have been abandoned (Red Raiders, etc.). The only one that this still applies to is the Washington Redskins. Redskins is most definitely a slur.

Not so much.

This is sometimes the case, as well. Witness [url=“”]Chief Wahoo
. The Tomhawk Chop isn’t particularly loved by native groups either, I understand. Nor most sports fans.