Native American Group Files Lawsuit Demanding Cleveland Indians Change Name, Mascot

Well, this is the least surprising news ever. Immediately after five Native Americans (yes, only five) calling themselves “People Not Mascots” won a lawsuit against the Washington Redskins to force a name change, they’ve announced that they’re not satisfied, and the Cleveland Indians are next.


At least one could argue that someone, somewhere in American history has used the word “redskin” as a disparaging term. (Although Slate published a long, well-researched history of the word, and it’s a lot more complicated than that. It seems the people who invented the term “red skins” to describe Native Americans were…Native Americans.) But since when is “Indian” an unspeakable insult?

Even the National Congress of American Indians, the group behind an anti-Redskins Super Bowl ad, included the word “Indian” in a list of positive ways to describe Native Americans. Oh, and the National Congress of Native Americans has a lot more than five members.

Anyway, now that People Not Mascots won its lawsuit against the only team with an arguably racist name, they’ve moved on to claiming that mascots—all of them—are inherently offensive. Listen to this:

“It’s been offensive since day one,” a member of the group told NBC News. “We are not mascots. My children are not mascots. We are people.”

Uh oh. If people aren’t mascots, and that’s what the problem is, then we just opened the door for all sorts of groups—historically oppressed or not—to start spamming the courts with petty lawsuits. Aren’t most team names and mascots based on people? How about the Dallas Cowboys? Cowboys were real people in American history, and many lived short, brutal lives in stark conditions. How can we mock their history? People, not mascots! What about the little redheaded man with his fists in the air who represents Notre Dame’s “Fighting Irish”? As a half-Irish person and a distant descendant of the real-life Irish boxer Jack Dempsey, I’m offended by this stereotype. (Just kidding. You’d be hard-pressed to find an Irish-American who cares, much less one who’s outraged—and trust me, there’s nothing Irish-Americans love more than being outraged.)

I’m not going to be one of those clueless white people who downplays the existence of racial stereotypes, injustices (historical and modern), and slurs. Nor am I going to suggest that all groups have suffered equally from these things. I do, however, believe in sorting out pressing issues from petty ones. “Indian” is not a slur—at least not to anyone but a few power-hungry individuals filing lawsuits and claiming to be offended. Why should five people be permitted to change the name and mascot of a sports team in a city they don’t live in and would probably never visit?

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