When President Donald Trump starts tweeting, it’s hard for him to stop. He sent out his second sports tweet of the day on Monday, this time focusing on the possible name changes of the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians. Surprise! He’s not happy about it.
They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct. Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020
Both Washington and Cleveland announced last week that they are considering changing their team names in light of the recent movement against systemic racism — one of the many societal ripples that have been felt since the murder of George Floyd in late May.
Why are Washington, Cleveland considering name changes?
Calling both teams “fabled” isn’t exactly true (Washington has been the laughingstock of the NFL for several years and Cleveland has a long history of both losing and haplessness), but Trump’s not wrong about political correctness. For years, Native American groups have been calling for both teams to change their names, staging protests, writing op-eds, and even creating an ad campaign to highlight the racism and cruelty of using Native American caricatures as mascots.
That both teams are considering a name change only now, after years of outcry, feels disingenuous at best. But regardless of why each team might change their name, it’s still progress toward treating Native Americans like the human beings they are instead of mascots.
Native Americans as sports mascots
Trump is obviously wrong about “Indians” being angry about it, though. While there may be some who are fine with it either way, there’s a long history of advocacy against using Native American imagery as mascots. Since 1971, over 80 Native American groups and tribes have called for Washington to ditch “Redskins.” Native American groups have protested at Cleveland’s opening day and other games since 1972.
The teams may have chosen those names and mascots to convey strength, but that doesn’t make it right. Naming a team after an exaggerated caricature or stereotype of an ethnic group was always wrong, and it will always be wrong. Trump’s just unhappy that Washington and Cleveland are finally being forced to reckon with that.
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