Updated: Sep 30
On Monday, after 106 years, the Cleveland Major League Baseball team played their last home game as the Indians, and after their final regular season game of 2021 on Sunday, they will no longer be called the Cleveland Indians. Their new nickname will be the Guardians which is a worse nickname than the Washington Football Team of the NFL who have yet to choose a new name after relinquishing their 88-year name, the Redskins.
The most pressing question is, how does this help the people of Native American descent? It doesn’t. Not one of their lives will be improved by changing these names. It does not fix the poverty, the unemployment, the failing schools, the scourge of addiction that many Native Americans have to live with every day. All those problems will be as real next week, as they were in June of 2020 when the name Redskins was put into mothballs forever. There is not one of the 5.2 million Native Americans who can point to one thing in their life that is better today because of that change, not one. This is the height of liberal virtue signaling. Doing something without doing something.
Founders and owners of sports teams do not choose nicknames that are meant to be derogatory, or offensive in any way; The Cleveland Sloths, or the Washington Idiots would never even be suggested, nor would the Atlanta [insert racial slur]. Teams chose nicknames that they believe represent what they want to stand for as an organization. So, instead of Native Americans viewing these nicknames as an insult, they should have been seen as a high compliment. These teams were saying, we respect who you are as a people, and what you are about so much that we want you to represent us. But in our current time, when people are so easily offended, compliments are often taken as insults.
Intent does not matter, we are told. Simply because choosing that specific nickname was not intended to offend, if people are offended, then it’s offensive, and it must be changed. That prohibition is a very slippery slope to go down, not just with team nicknames, but in all of life. If we must stop doing or saying the things that may offend even one person, then most of what we do and say in life must be stopped. It is hard to live life without the risk of offending someone somewhere. It is impossible to voice an opinion that someone won’t disagree with or be offended by.
I find abortion offensive, does that mean that pro-choice advocates are not allowed to voice their opinions on abortion? People with different political views than me may find my articles offensive, does that mean I must shut down my website and never voice a political opinion again? When we cater to the easily offended, we end up with names like the Guardians, a meaningless nothing of a name that inspires no one, or the Washington Football Team, a bland, generic, no name. We have become so scared not to offend that we end up saying and doing nothing of consequence.
It is a shame because many Native American people took pride in the names Redskins and Indians, and it is only a very vocal minority who claimed to be offended that worked to spur this change. The stance that this vocal minority took to the use of these names backfired because their being offended was a show of weakness that belied the very characteristics of strength and resiliency that these names were intended to project.
This is not about these specific sports nicknames; this goes to a larger trend in our society – the willingness to cancel any one and anything we disagree with or that we claim offends us. Since when did the weak-minded easily offended get to decide what words we use, names we adopt, and thoughts we express? Why are their opinions more valuable than the strong minded, who don’t crumple at hearing or seeing things they disagree with? When was it decided that we must give up our Constitutional right to free speech and expression, so certain people don’t get their feelings hurt? And if that is the criteria for determining behavior, and expression, then the people who are the easiest offended will dictate our words and actions. And if those people are running things, we are in trouble.
Therefore, the reason why nicknames like the Fighting Irish and the Celtics are not offensive while the Redskins and Indians are, is because Irish people are not offended by those nicknames, so the names are not offensive. And maybe that is one of the reason these people have different life outcomes. People of Irish descent take pride in the fact that Notre Dame and Boston use these nicknames. So, the difference is not in the names, it’s in the people’s willingness to be easily offended. And it is apparent that the Irish don’t get offended so easily. On St Patrick’s day when non-Irish people wear green and shamrocks, and celebrate what it means to be Irish, Irish people celebrate right with them – it’s called integrating into a multi-cultural society which breaks down walls and barrier, and helps those of that ethnicity to thrive within the society.
One will argue that the Native Americans have suffered a history of discrimination in this country, so they have a right to be offended. Yet, there is also a full history of discrimination against the Irish in America. They lived in slums, impoverished for a long time as a result of anti-Irish discrimination. “Help Wanted - Irish need not apply!” were signs commonly displayed in store fronts throughout the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Stereotypes of the “Irish temper”, alcoholism, and unbridled sexuality are still prevalent in our society today. Being Irish Catholic was an open argument used against John F. Kennedy in his bid for the Presidency in 1960.
So, if you see yourself as a perpetual victim, you will become a perpetual victim, and everyone else will become the villains. This is the danger with the teaching of Critical Race Theory in our schools, telling children they are a victim or a villain based solely on skin color becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy that many people will never escape. But if you refuse to allow your ethnicity to define you, stereotypes will not touch you. You become your own person, an individual. Judging yourself solely by what you do as a person. And your self-worth will be determined by how you live up to the standards you set for yourself, not by how others view or judge you. And you will become integrated in this multicultural society, not only to survive, but to thrive.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.