Staff Editorial: Success breeds complacency in changing mascots

Staff Editorial

Nov. 11, 2021

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, and Americans prepare to gather with close family and friends, chances are that a televised sporting event will be at the center of a conversation or social setting.

Whether you’re watching a National Football League game on Thanksgiving Day or a college basketball contest on Black Friday, sports are impossible to avoid around this time of the year.

However, several offensive Native American logos and mascots will continue to be a recurring theme on the field this holiday season.

In an era where many teams are starting to rethink their nicknames and/or depictions, some organizations show no urgency to change.

Just last week, the Braves brought the city of Atlanta its first World Series title since 1995. The ‘Braves’ nickname has been carried across three cities (Boston, Milwaukee, Atlanta) and has been synonymous with the state of Georgia since 1966.

A team with that much tradition and current success has extremely little motivation to change its nickname and accompanying practices (like the Tomahawk Chop, for example). When you consider the political climate of the South, in addition to the fact the Braves are Major League Baseball’s strongest representative of that region, the likelihood of change is miniscule. 

You might come across the National Hockey League’s Black Friday contest on ABC between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks. Since 2010, the Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups, the most in the entire NHL during that span. There’s also been little to no discussion of this franchise changing its nickname, likely due to the team’s success. 

Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but it seems like success breeds complacency.

However, other teams that have had less on-field success and carry nicknames that are perceived to be offensive almost immediately jumped to change their names following the racial unrest that unfolded across the country in the summer of 2020.

The Washington Football Team, who has not won a Super Bowl since 1991 and is in a more-accepting climate when it comes to removing an offensive name, is in their second year as the WFT following the dropping of the ‘Redskins’ nickname. The franchise plans to have a new nickname ready for the 2022 season.

After over 100 years as the Cleveland Indians, the franchise will begin competing as the Guardians in 2022. The ‘Guardians’ nickname pays homage to statues that lead visitors into the city. For what it’s worth, Cleveland has not won a World Series since 1948, the longest-active streak in the entire MLB.

For the teams that have found success, there seems to be no rush to consider changing the nickname.

For others, perhaps lack of on-field success and a need for good press were the way to go.

As the sports calendar becomes loaded with events, it’s time for everyone to rethink and antiquated, offensive Native American franchises.