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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 6/29/20

Good morning!



Given the justified effort to the eliminate racist names and imagery that perpetuates stereotypes (e.g., Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima), it’s time we revisit offensive names and of sports teams. Most of these are names associated with Native Americans. If there is a “number one” on the list of offensive names, can anyone top the Washington Redskins? How they have gotten away for years with a name that actually employs a pejorative?

Then there are the Indians and Braves in baseball and the Chiefs in football. Some argue that the Atlanta Braves use a dignified image of a Native American warrior. But then there is no explanation for their mascot, “Chief Noc-A-Homa” (I kid you not, played by Native Americans over the years). The Cleveland Indians have “Chief Wahoo.” Take a look and you decide—offensive? Sure looks that way to me:

Since I am not a fan of any of these teams, I don’t have standing in this debate. But based solely on the fact that these names offend Native Americans (and it’s hard to argue when one sees the image above), it seems best to move on to other names…

Perhaps there is a distinction between names that purport to honor a particular tribe (for example, the Chicago Blackhawks or the Illinois Fighting Illini) versus the more generic “Indians.” It would seem that if the local tribe sees the name as a sign of honor, then they could vote to allow it. Otherwise, I’m not so sure.

But when teams abandon offensive names they shouldn’t just jump straight into stupid names. Take, for example, the Stanford Indians, renamed the Cardinal (the color, not the bird), after the students voted for the Tree.



What about the Cincinnati Reds? Are they also named for a color, like the Stanford Cardinal? Regardless of its origins, during the 1950s “red scare” there apparently were enough people who felt having a name related to the “red menace” of Communism justified changing the name for a short time (from 1954-1958) to the “Cincinnati Redlegs.” Yes, I’m serious. They changed the name back.

In fact there is an explanation. Presumably the name at that time derived from the Red Legs that fought as “free staters” during the Border Wars between slave-state Missouri and the abolitionists in Kansas. “Bleeding Kansas” was the fight for whether Kansas would enter the Union free or slave. As you may recall, the decision as to slavery was left to the territories after the Kansas-Nebraska Act was enacted in 1854. This act of “popular sovereignty” mollified the South during the Buchanan administration and was a precurser to the Civil War.



Ed Weiss reminds me that, while Native American names may be inappropriate, there are some historical precedents that ought not be celebrated. An example is the lack of controversy surrounding the naming of the Texas Rangers, but they were notably racists and brutish. Cult of Glory, by David Swanson, offers quite a different look at the Texas Rangers than the myth we have grown to accept. They apparently were at times in their history a brutish, racist, violent lot. SIDE NOTE: Mea culpa, sometimes reading the reviews from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal offers enough of a perspective on an area in which I have a passing interest but lack the stamina or dedication to plow through the entire tome…



I think these guys, many of whom are Irish Catholics, see the leprechaun and the imagery as a positive. I’m not sure I would, but it’s probably their call.



This is a strange oddity. The team possesses the unspectacular name, “the Spurs,” but its fans adopted the name “Yid Nation.” This resulted apparently from Jewish ownership, Jewish players and/or a decent sized Jewish fan base. Whatever the cause, I have a certain feeling of pride that there is a group of fans calling themselves the Jews and waving Israeli flags. Unfortunately, I’m not so happy with opposing teams shouting anti-semitic epithets…



Thank you, Glenn Raines, for honoring Mark Rothko and Brad with the Rothko Zoom backdrop!

While Rothko’s composition is powerful, I think it is enhanced by the guy in the foreground…the “Rainesmaker…”



Among the four “major” team sports in the U.S., there are five team names shared by two teams (previously there were seven, but names change). Can you name three of these pairs?

Have a great day,


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