Many more opinions from the in-tray:
I appreciate your Cleveland readers’ comments (I’m an Ms girl myself but I like Cleveland!). Sadly, the attached image was supposed to be the Indians’ commemorative cap for the 4th of July (oh the irony there). It has reportedly been pulled. The Atlanta Braves were going to ressurect another horrendous image onto its hats, but then denied that was the case.
I also appreciate this whole thread. I have family who are Native and part Native (Blackfeet), so it’s personal to me. I recommend The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It’s written for young adults and is a very engaging, easy read and gives a funny, heartbreaking and real look at life on the rez.
Another takes issue with the reader who invoked the Fighting Irish mascot:
Notre Dame itself is not just a Catholic institution, but very much an Irish Catholic institution. As such, its mascot is an expression of Irish identity by Irish Americans. The Washington Redskins is an institution originated, owned and operated by white dudes in a city where a long series of genocidal policies against Native Americans were planned and directed. So the situations are not analogous in any respect: not in the terms, not in the people, and not in the institutions.
Another pushes back on the second reader here:
To somehow equate the Cleveland Indians name to those of Negro league teams is to be grossly oblivious to the nature of those leagues. The Negro Leagues were segregated teams. The BlackBarons were called “Black” because they were black. By definition, they had to be, because black players were not allowed on white teams.
So this is entirely a different situation. The fact that there was this kind of color line is a shameful part of baseball history. But Negro League teams should be remembered and celebrated because of the great players who were excellent athletes that played hard. They were not ashamed of being black and wanted to show the world that black people could play ball just as well as whites. In this respect, your reader is correct about those names being marks of pride for the players.
This is not the same situation as the Redskins and Indians. The Cleveland Indians are not a team full of Indian players (The Sockalexis myth notwithstanding). When they took the name in 1915, they were a team of white players, in a white league. They are named for a group of people who literally did not have rights at the time. This is an important distinction. Taking a team name that reflects pride in your group is vastly different than taking a name that caricaturizes a group with less power. To think that the name was not conceived from racism is to be ignorant of the world of 1915.
Before Atlanta hosted the Braves, for decades it was home to a white minor league team called the Crackers, and a Negro League team called the Black Crackers – seriously.
Another lightens the mood:
I always thought Penn’s Fighting Quakers were funny, in a stupid kind of way. Go Pacifists! Subdue them with Inner Light!
Sorry, I just had to respond to this reader’s comments you posted:
If I were living 50 years ago, I would of demand changing the nickname because of [racist Redskins owner George Preston] Marshall’s actions. Now, I think the Redskins reflect its true origin: pride, endearment and character from their football team.
This is just a bunch of happy horseshit.
In what way, precisely, do the Washington Redskins organization do anything to promote pride, endearment, and character among any Native American communities in the greater D.C. area, or nationally? I’m sure that the Redskins players and organization do a lot of charitable activities – all professional sports teams do as a way to engender good feelings among fans and because the players and management recognize how truly fortunate they are and want to give back to their communities. But do the Redskins do anything that is specifically targeted at Native American communities? Are they promoting education about Native American culture and history, working to preserve recordings of Native American languages as the last speakers of these languages grow old and die?
If they do, they’re remarkable for the lack of publicity such actions generate, because as far as I can tell there isn’t any.
Just wanted to add one more angle to the thread, which started in part with a quote from Doug Mataconis, who asked, “I have to wonder why this is something that Members of Congress need to be getting involved in, or why legislation is necessary to address something that is, in the end, a private business matter.”
Trademark is absolutely not a private business matter. Trademark is a system in which the government grants to people and business a set of rights in the usage of images and names. The underlying policy is both to protect consumers and to prevent unfair competition. Unlike say a contract agreed to by two parties, there is no private business conduct in trademark, the trademark holder gets rights that are granted by current legislation and the trademark office.
It seems the point of the proposed legislation is simply to deny the Redskins use the full force of the US Government to enforce its trademark. Currently, the Redskins can go to court, and in essence conscript the federal government into forcing people not to use their name or image, or pay them penalties for having done so. All the legislation would do is to say the government is not going to help them do that anymore. I understand that there may be reasons why the government shouldn’t pick and choose what symbols get Trademark protection, but that is a different argument than the standard “keep liberal government out of private business” trope that Mataconis puts forth.
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