When people try and defend American sports' obsession with Indian names—Seminoles, Braves, Chiefs, Redskins, etc.—many of them make the argument that these names are meant to honor strong and prideful groups of people. Last night a trio of Cleveland Indians fans "honored" their team's namesake by donning cartoonish redface meant to resemble Cleveland's mascot, Chief Wahoo, and whooping it up for the TV cameras.
ESPN writer Rick Reilly put forth in a column last month the idea that changing Native American team names is a bad idea—one comparable to putting Native Americans onto reservations—because a lot of native people he knows don't mind the monikers. "It's a name that honors the people," one Choctaw high school teacher told him of his Oklahoma school's "Redskin" mascot. It's a reasonable opinion, of course, particularly coming from a Native American. But while having pride in a cultural heritage may be the intention of these names, what we see here is sometimes the end result.