With one of the most debated names in American sports set to finally change, the next big change is likely coming to baseball.
The Washington NFL franchise announced Monday that they’ll be changing its name — the results of a years-long fight between the team and Native American advocacy groups who argued the name “Redskins” was derogatory.
The franchise hasn’t yet announced a new name, but it’s on the way. The Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves, two baseball franchises who also carry native imagery and nicknames, could be next.
Given the current conversations about race in this country, and how quickly even some long-standing debates are now finding resolution, don’t be surprised if one or both of these franchises look different soon.
Here’s what we know currently about discussions involving the Indians and Braves:
Cleveland Indians: A new name coming?
The Indians have been slowly morphing their image the past few years. The Indians announced on July 4 that they were going to discuss changing their name. This came shortly after the Redskins announced they were reviewing their name. Now that the Redskins are moving forward with the change, it seems to follow the Indians would, too.
The Indians already halted the use of Chief Wahoo, their former logo featuring a cartoonish caricature of a Native American chief. Wahoo was the main point of contention for activists who demanded change in Cleveland, but the name change has been on the table in recent years, too.
It was Major League Baseball that deemed Chief Wahoo “no longer appropriate” in 2018. Through the years, however, Indians leadership has been a lot more open to change than the Redskins were, which makes them the best candidate for change next.
Some names that have been discussed include: The Cleveland Spiders (Cleveland’s original baseball team), the Cleveland Buckeyes (a reference to Cleveland’s Negro League franchise) or something more whimsical like the Cleveland Rocks.
Atlanta Braves: Is the Tomahawk Chop on the chopping block?
When discussions began with the Redskins and Indians, the Braves issued a statement saying they had no plans to change their name. The Tomahawk Chop — which has been popular with fans since the ’90s — could be dropped, however.
“We will always be the Atlanta Braves,” the team said recently in an email to fans. It also said in a statement: “[The organization] honors, supports and values the Native American community. That will never change.”
Can’t say the same for The Chop. While opposing teams have grown to hate it over the years — because tens of thousands of fans chopping and chanting in unison can throw you off your game — the Braves said they plan to engage with the Native American community, fans and players to examine their fan experience, including the continued use of the Tomahawk Chop. This will happen after the 2020 season, the team said.
The issue made headlines last season when Ryan Helsley, a member of the Cherokee nation who pitches for the St. Louis Cardinals, said he found the chant insulting. The Braves then didn’t hand out their foam Tomahawks before Game 5 of their postseason series with the Cardinals.
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