For the past have dozen years or so, Major League Baseball has attempted to capitalize on the merchandising market by offering alternate caps and jerseys that teams wear during Spring Training and throughout the regular season during batting practice. The 2013 versions were revealed by ESPN’s Uni Watch earlier today and while many of the new designs were bland and boring, there was one notable exception.
Last year the Braves conspicuously avoided using their “screaming Indian” logo as a sleeve patch on their retro alternate jersey — a welcome move for those of us who oppose the appropriation of Native American imagery in sports. Unfortunately, it turns out that the logo hasn’t been permanently mothballed. Disappointing. Grade: F
The Cleveland Indians, long the standard-bearer for unnecessary use of racially offensive images on their uniforms, didn’t opt to use Chief Wahoo on their new batting practice caps, going instead with the boring, but non-offensive, block ‘C’ they’ve used on their regular uniforms for the past several years. While the Indians still utilize the grinning caricature of a Native American on one of their many caps as well as on their uniform sleeve, they didn’t take the opportunity so many other clubs did here and add the secondary logo to their new caps.
The Braves, on the other hand, erased all the goodwill they may have built up last season by bringing the “screaming savage” back to prominence on their new caps.
Obviously, the use of this image, not to mention the use of the nicknames that both the Braves and Indians continue to employ, is an affront to the Native Americans and their culture. The depiction of the screaming savage only serves to continue to drive home stereotypes about an entire race of people in this country. That this kind of thing is allowed to exist in 2012 is beyond reprehensible.
Perhaps the only thing worse than the continued use of this logo and the Chief Wahoo logo in Cleveland is the arguments of those who support such actions. “Tradition,” they say, as if that’s a good reason to do anything, let alone a good reason to promote blatant racism. These organizations have been outwardly racist for more than a century, so why shouldn’t they be allowed to continue?
How does this make any sense?
Dozens of colleges have changed their nicknames over the years in an effort to stop the promotion of racial stereotypes, even those with nicknames like “Warriors” have opted for a change so as not to be even potentially offensive to Native Americans. Unfortunately, professional sports organizations have not followed suit, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.
The NBA still has the Warriors in the Bay Area, but they did see the franchise in Washington DC change their nickname from the Bullets to the Wizards because they didn’t like the idea of violence being associated with the team, city, or league. Why is violence not okay but racism encouraged? In the very same Metropolotan area as the Wizards reside the Washington Redskins, perhaps the most offensive nickname ever used by any organization outside of the Ku Klux Klan.
Though it was certainly a very small step, the Braves had begun to distance themselves from the offensive by not using the “screaming savage” as a uniform sleeve patch last season. That they have doubled back and not only chosen to use the image this year, but to use it prominately is beyond comprehension.
It’s all about marketing and about money. That’s the whole reason behind the use of batting practice hats and jerseys in the first place. What better way to capitalize on merchandising than to change the image of your team? Hats with racists logos shouldn’t be the way these teams make money and any fan who buys and wears one is opening themselves up to being labeled a racist as well.
The Braves, Indians, Redskins, Chiefs and any other organization that still promotes racism are well beyond the reasonable time to abandon their offensive logos, mascots, and nicknames. These organizations should be making moves to re-brand themselves and rake in all of the new merchandising money that comes along with it, while getting praised for doing the right thing.
Instead, they choose to not only hold tight to their archaic and racially insensitive histories, but to try to profit from them by escalating the use of such a despicable image.