The woke forces that ultimately pressured the Washington Redskins into becoming the Washington Commanders and the Cleveland Indians to change to the Cleveland Guardians, are at it again.
The target this time is the Atlanta Braves.
When asked about the “controversy” surrounding the World Series champions’ name during last week’s team visit to the White House “ binder-bound Karine Jean-Pierre, successor to Circle-Back Psaki as Biden Administration spokesperson, responded: “We believe that it’s important to have this conversation.”
This shouldn’t be as big a deal as those first two campaigns, which actually went on for decades before gaining momentum and finally culminating in Washington becoming the Commanders in 2020 and Cleveland following with the Guardians this year.
The Braves, after all, have changed their name three times already in their history. Beginning as the Boston Red Stockings in 1871, they adopted the name Braves in 1912, became the Milwaukee Braves in 1952, then switched to the Atlanta Braves in 1966. So, what’s one more change?
Here are some possibilities:
Before the Braves moved to Atlanta, the minor league team there was the Atlanta Crackers. It wouldn’t be the first time a Major League team appropriated the name of its Minor League predecessor, though this obviously has its own societal connotation that could quickly be at issue in today’s culture.
Another option might be to move the team 85 miles south to Macon and call them the Whoopee instead of the Braves. The Central Hockey League team that was called the Macon Whoopee went bankrupt in 2001, so the name is available.
Or, the much-traveled franchise could stay put and become the Atlanta Choppers. That way fans could continue their tomahawking motion when urging the team to rally or celebrating one.
Before abandoning “Braves” as the team name, though, it would be a good idea to look at what that word means, and decide if it’s really insensitive and derogatory.
Merriam-Webster defines the noun “brave” as “one with mental or moral strength to face danger, fear or difficulty: one who is brave.” Doesn’t sound disrespectful to me.
“The Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves program, including the chop,” Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has said. “For me, that’s kind of the end of the story.”
Whether or not Manfred is right, the obvious follow-up reaction has to be, “Who’s next?”
There’s only one remaining Native American possibility in the NFL: the Kansas City Chiefs. But ”chief” conveys even more positive image than “brave.” And in the National Basketball Association, only “warrior” fits the bill. But Golden State seems safe; “warrior” ranks up there with “chief” and “brave.”
Beyond Atlanta, Major League Baseball has been cleansed; in the National Hockey League, the only possible Native American affront is the Chicago Blackhawks. Black Hawk was chief of the Sauk tribe that sided with the British in the War of 1812. Black Hawk is also the namesake for the U.S. Army’s Black Hawk helicopter and for a World War I infantry division. Chicago’s hockey team issued a statement last year that it would not consider a name change.
The Sauk notwithstanding, there is precedent for making tribal names a part of this movement. The North Dakota Fighting Sioux are now the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, while the Florida State Seminoles remain—with the agreement of the leaders of the Seminole nation.
The Stanford Indians became the Stanford Cardinal a long time ago; the Eastern Michigan Hurons turned into the EM Eagles a decade later; Miami of Ohio switched from Redskins to RedHawks in 1997; and St. John’s went from Redmen to Red Storm in 2009. (There are others, of course, beyond the big-school category.)
Central Michigan University and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe have a collegial relationship; hence the CMU Chippewas aren’t threatened at this time. And the Utah Utes have the blessing of the Ute tribe. Meanwhile, the San Diego State Aztecs seem safe since the Aztec Empire ended approximately 400 years ago.
When this madness finally ends, the fight will not necessarily be over.
There are roughly a dozen animal mascots in the NFL—including Broncos, who might be next—and a handful more between the NBA, NHL and MLB.
At the major college level, Great Danes, Terriers, Camels, Chanticleers, Stags, Gators, Antelopes, Leopards, Gamecocks, Greyhounds, Terrapins, Gophers, Jackrabbits, Bison, Anteaters, Kangaroos, Catamounts and Penguins are only a fraction of all the species that could be challenged.
Right here in Colorado, in fact, we have Buffaloes and Rams.
PETA, no doubt, is lurking, just waiting its turn.
Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 14 books, eight of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at email@example.com.