Over the past three decades, numerous organizations have implemented policies to subdue relatively historical nicknames. For a great example, the NCAA calls for any university using a Native American or American Indian mascot to either change or seek approval from the local tribe to use the said nickname for their intercollegiate athletic programs.
Luckily, West Texas A&M University doesn’t have to worry about such a predicament. We’re sure any sort of buffalo herd won’t be offended by us being called the Buffs, just as long as we give them plenty of land to roam and plenty of food to graze upon.
Professional teams are a different story. We have the Washington Redskins, which has been the center of a firestorm of controversy as of late, spawning from Bob Costas saying that the nickname is indeed offensive toward Native Americans. Another example would be the likes of the Cleveland Indians and their Chief Wahoo logo. And there is always the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves, or the Golden State Warriors.
There is a difference. The Chiefs, Braves, and Warriors use honorary terms for the original Americans. And in a perfect world, would it be all right to simply change the nickname of that particular Washington football organization? Or give the Indians a makeover that doesn’t resemble an imp like man with a broad smile on his features? Our answer is yes, that perfect scenario can happen. But for different reasons than one could assume.
Yet, we have to look on the other side of the coin. Is it wrong for the NCAA to strip the University of North Dakota’s nickname because the tribal elders of the Standing Rock tribe couldn’t make up a vote to keep the Fighting Sioux moniker? Or is it fine for Eastern Michigan to completely forget its historical name of the Huron for a bland, more neutral nickname in the Eagles while Central Michigan keeps the Chippewa nickname?
Clearly, there needs to be a line drawn between what makes sense and what oversteps a few boundaries.
Nicknames such as Hurons, Chippewas, and Fighting Sioux are good. They don’t demean or insult, but instill pride and bring locality to that particular university and its athletics program. However, the Washington Redskins are a professional organization. Their logo is nothing to complain about, and it would be a smooth transition for supporters if Redskins name were simply replaced with a nickname such as “Warriors” or “Potomacs”. Surely, the Golden State Warriors wouldn’t mind sharing the nickname and Washington Warriors does have a particular ring to it. And the Washington Potomacs would bring about a local flavor to the District of Columbia.
The Cleveland Indians, on the other hand, have made moves over the past few years to install a block C to compensate for the absence of Chief Wahoo.
So it can be done by professional organizations. And even though the Washington Redskins may be the last domino to fall, it will be a move in the right direction. We just ask that it must make sense to change a relatively offensive team name and keep one that tribal elders believe will represent their names well in a broader scope.