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?

Ashley Herzog

View Comments

  • WOW if the Redskins name is not offensive and the Chief Wahoo is not offensive then when will we see teams like the "New York Jews" Or "west Virginia Hillbillies" How about "The Atlanta Coons" I saw earlier hate comments and obviously they are from white people who know nothing about native history, culture, or have any sensitivity to anything outside the little world in which they live in. Truly sad.

  • One shouldn't be surprised by the vitriol and hate expressed in the few comments you have received in the past week. What's the matter? Apparently, you can't get a double-digit readership in that time frame. The snarkiness of the blog is amazing as well as the lack of knowledge shown by the writer as well as her followers. The Cleveland Indians are disliked mainly for their "Little Red Sambo" of a logo. Native groups have been asking the Indians to change their logo since well before Little Black Sambo was a thing of history. Just because five people have signed on to a lawsuit does not mean they don't have thousands of supporters. We discarded Little Black Sambo, The Frito Bandido and other racist logos in the 60s--why is Red Sambo hanging on? It should be gone just like the rest. It was almost 20 years ago when the Indians and the Braves played each other in the World Series when dozens of natives as well as supporters came together to protest. We were subjected to spitting, epithets and threats for having the audacity to call a racist and racist. It was then, and still is, a racist mascot and symbol of hate. Perhaps you have to have someone spitting in your face to realize that.

  • How about "The Fighting Whities"?

    I really like that one...if the Native American College intermural team would grant a waiver.

  • What is offensive to me is that the so called Native Americans are not native for one. That a lie has been told all these years. It is offensive that Indians receive millions in government checks and land yet still live like desert ghetto rats! It is offensive we have an illegal occupant in the White house allowing and pushing to dissolve our basic rights and supports crap like this Injun to file a law suit demanding anything!

    I would like to file a law suit demanding Indians clean up the reservations and have monthly drug tests before they get their checks! I have first hand knowledge of Navajos,Hopi,Sioux and Utes. They live like Naggers and yell the loudest!

  • These 5 people should be charged with harassing the courts with malicious unnecessary cases and told to go away or go to jail.

  • first, why is something that was named in 1915..... 99 years ago, suddenly offensive ? No one is making fun of Native Americans. People got to much time on their hands.... Why do something that really matters ? Create jobs, stop wars, help the poor..etc... instead of getting 15 minutes of fame.

    Lastly, this is a private company, not a public one. Whoever owns the team or business should be allowed to name the team or business whatever..... it's their money, it belongs to them not to a bunch of whiny people.

  • So the whiners don't think indians play baseball or they just don't like the name Cleaveland......? Nice ruling by the idiots in the patent agency....catering to stupidity.....

  • More people looking for free money. Its all about the money, how many times has the Cleveland Indians went through this now?

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