It is news to me that Jerry Howarth, the radio play-by-play voice of the Blue Jays since 1981, does not use the name “Indians” when calling baseball games out of respect to Native people. But it’s not new news—Howarth has observed this practice for more than 20 years.
It’ll complicate things for Howarth once Toronto and Cleveland kick off the ALCS on Friday, but he’ll manage. As he told The Jeff Blair Show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan (as reported by the Toronto Star), he’s been managing ever since receiving a letter from a fan following the 1992 World Series.
The listener was a member of a First Nation and politely told Howard that he found such terms deeply offensive.
“He just wrote it in such a loving, kind way,” Howarth said.
“He touched my heart,” Howarth said.
Howarth said he made his decision to honour that fan and his culture.
“For the rest of my career I will not say ‘Indian’ or ‘Brave’ and if I was in the NFL I would not say ‘Redskins,’” Howarth said, referring to the Washington football team.
The imagery surrounding the team is very bad—the redface that shows up occasionally is grotesque, and Chief Wahoo is abominable. The team is clearly phasing out the logo, and while it could be eliminated quickly and completely, this transition is worlds better than stubbornly standing behind it—and, potentially, avoids turning it into a cause célèbre among bad fans.