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Cleveland Indians should change their name
The Cleveland Indians were defeated by the Chicago Cubs in the World Series championship on Wednesday night, Nov. 2, 2016 at Progressive Field in Cleveland in the 10th inning by a score of 8 to 7. But before the game was played, I wrote this column looking at the racism of the Cleveland Indian’s name and how they should be disqualified from playing baseball until they change it.
Published in the Southwest News-Herald newspaper, Nov. 3, 2016
By Ray Hanania
If the Cleveland Indians end up winning the World Series, as it seems as I write this on Sunday, Game 5, I don’t think they should be given the World Series title until they own up to their historical disregard for humanity and American history.
They need to change their name, first.
“Cleveland Indians” is an offensive name and their symbol or mascot, Chief Wahoo is and has been disturbing.
That professional athletes would even want to be a part of a baseball team that denigrates and offends the cultural heritage of an entire race of people is disgusting.
Before the team was known as the Cleveland Indians, it had many official names and many nicknames. One nickname was the “Indians” because in the late 1890s, one of its key players was Native American player Louis Francis Sockalexis, who was an outfielder when the team was called the Cleveland Spiders.
Sockalexis is considered the first Native American to play baseball, although is a dispute much like the one involving Christopher Columbus and the debate over who “discovered” America.
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In the 1900s, the team was known as the Cleveland Naps in honor of another player, Napoleon “Naps” Lajoie. In 1914, Naps retired and the team owner Charles Somer who made his first mistake by asking the sports writers at the city’s four major newspapers and asked them to suggest a new name.
None of the sportswriters were thinking of a name that might honor Sockalexis, Native Americans or anyone for that matter. They could have called the team “The Cleveland Cy Youngs,” after one of the team’s most famous and well known players and pitchers.
(By the way, the Cy Young Award was created in 1956 in honor of Hall of Famer Cy Young who died the year before.)
No, they chose “Indians” because it was a racial stereotype and caricature at the time. Indians were ruthless, waiving tomahawks and spears and they would kill anyone. Dark faced, fearsome and screaming savages.
That racist stereotype of Native Americans carried through for a long time, even long after the American Civil Rights movement helped jog America’s conscience about racism and race.
As a child in the 1950s, I watched cartoons on television which portrayed Native Americans as fearsome savages. I watched John Wayne and other “White Hat” heroes save women and children from the brutality of the savages in movies that went on to build fame and fortune.
Little did I know at the time that the media would eventually cast a more sinister race in that role, Arabs. I can only imagine what it was like for Native Americans to live under those racist stereotypes.
Most importantly, Native Americans for years have demanded that the team change its name, but the team has refused. Racism and hate apparently are in the foundation of the Ohio city, and I am sure in many other cities, too.
But that’s not an excuse. Racism doesn’t belong in a heritage or colorful sports history.
The name “Cleveland Indians” is a racist, hate-filled name and anyone playing professional baseball wearing that uniform should be ashamed of himself or herself – are there female baseball players?
Cleveland isn’t the only city with a racist sports franchise name. There is the Atlanta Braves, with a mascot Chief Nac-a-Homa who chopped an axe in the air, did a rain dance and then ran into a teepee in the middle of the field. He was called “The Screaming Indian” or “Screaming Savage.” There’s football’s Washington Redskins, and I could go on and on with the Chiefs and the Black Hawks, too.
But racist jokes are not funny and neither are racist images, no matter how we try to spin them today.
Until the Cleveland Indians change their names, the World Series title should go to the Chicago Cubs.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
This post has already been read 839 times!
Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
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