Posted May 22, 2013

Vote: Should an MLB team change its nickname?

Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Poll, Toronto Blue Jays, Washington Nationals

indians-logo-si2The NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats announced on Tuesday that they have submitted paperwork to change their team nickname to the Hornets, which became available at the end of the regular season following the announcement that the New Orleans Hornets, who relocated from Charlotte in 2002, would play next year as the New Orleans Pelicans. The NBA, of course, is home to the Utah Jazz, who declined to change their name upon moving from New Orleans in 1979 resulting in the most incongruous team name in sports, and one of their signature franchises is the Los Angeles Lakers, who similarly kept an incongruous nickname when relocating from Minneapolis in 1960.

Baseball lacks such ill-fitting team nicknames, in part because while the Athletics, Braves, Giants and Dodgers all kept their names after moving to a different city, many other teams changed theirs upon relocating. The Orioles, Twins, Brewers, Rangers and Nationals all switched to more area-appropriate nicknames when moving from St. Louis, Washington, Seattle, Washington and Montreal, respectively. Of the first group, only the Dodgers’ name held significant geographic meaning, derived as it was from the fact that Brooklynites were sometimes referred to as “trolly dodgers” due to the preponderance of trolly lines in the borough and around the Brooklyn ballpark. However, the name Dodgers has lost its geographic significance over time and become a baseball word as much associated with Los Angeles as Brooklyn.

Still, it seems worth asking if you think any of the 30 major league teams should follow the Bobcats’ lead and change their nickname. Certainly, there are a few teams who could benefit in one way or another from a change. For example . . .

Blue Jays: The name Blue Jays was chosen for the Toronto expansion team in August 1976 by majority owner Labatt Breweries from a list of more than 4,000 suggestions. The only significance it holds is that blue is one of the city’s colors and common to all of its sports teams, but in a league that already had the Cardinals and Orioles, the bird mascot still feels uninspired 35 years later.

Braves, Indians: Your personal perspective might label it political correctness or racial insensitivity, but there’s no denying that Native American-derived nicknames are lightning rods. Neither of these is as offensive as the NFL’s Washington Redskins, but there’s certainly ample justification for either team to make a change.

Diamondbacks: It’s evocative of the Arizona desert, to be sure, but “Diamondbacks” is just too long. At 12 characters, Diamondbacks is three characters longer than any other team nickname in baseball, and the abbreviation “D-backs” is just as problematic, because it sounds like a pejorative term for young males. Arizona could have gone with “Rattlers,” used the same iconography and created a no-brainer give-away day in the process.

Marlins: Having changed stadiums, uniforms and geographical names prior to the 2012 season, then effectively scrubbed the roster clean prior to this season, a name change from Marlins, a nickname which evokes a history of fire sales and regrettable ownership, seems like the next logical step.

Nationals: The newest team nickname in baseball has a certain historical resonance, but also lacks character or significance. I suppose the same could have been said about the Yankees a century ago, but then if that wasn’t the most famous team nickname in sports, I might put it on this list as well.

So, which team do you think should change its name? You can vote for multiple teams below. None means you don’t think any of the 30 teams should make a change.

47 comments
BobbyHawley
BobbyHawley

This is easy. None of the above. It's the Padres. Horrible name. Change to The San Diego Blades.

Jake11
Jake11

Correect me if I'm wrong but I believe ARIZONA RATTLERS is already taken by the Arena Football League team (founded in 1992).  Nice try.

GKL
GKL

I've thought for a long time that the Cleveland franchise should adopt the team name of the original American Association (then a major league) Cleveland Spiders, and change their primary colors to black and red with a black widow theme.  I don't find the name Indians offensive, I just think the Spiders mascot and name is better.  Frankly, I've always thought the Indians uniforms stunk.  I believe designing a Cleveland Spider uniform would give them the chance to do something much better.

wildcard
wildcard

Very interesting post. The Indians logo is offensive, as is the term Redskins. The Braves tomahawk chop is what offends, not the name. As for the lamest nickname, my vote goes to the Buffalo Bills.

spaldene
spaldene

So in coming up with other examples, it just "happened" that "Ignorant Rednecks" and "Dumb Polacks" reflexively popped out.  Could it be that it was your own bigoted assessment of those groups that was lurking within, ready to reveal itself when called upon?  

I'd say without a subatomic particle of doubt . . . yes, it's a precise, if unintended, indicator of your own hateful prejudice.

emkurz
emkurz

Back when Labatts Breweries bought the Blue Jays, their top selling beer was Labatts Blue. Coincidence?

Reva P
Reva P

So, Mr Corcoran, you needed to fill a certain amount of "column inches" and chose to take a poll on a completely irrelevant topic.  You didn't choose very well.

And as for the Indians being on this list, do you know the story of how they came to use their current nickname?  It was a tribute to one of their then star players, a full-blooded Penobscot Indian named Louis Sockalexis.  After all, calling a team the Lou's or calling them yet another variation of the Sox really would not have worked.  And at the time, the Cleveland team had a habit of changing their name often, based on some of the characteristics of the players of based on the name of a single player.  They had, at various times. also been known as the Cleveland Spiders (when many of their players had long legs) and ad the Cleveland Naps (for Nap Lajoie).  Find a copy of the first edition of "Baseball Reference" and you'll find that story.

Mr Corcoran, the next time that you're too uninspired to write your requisite number of "column inches", don't include the Indians.

Michael10
Michael10

How does Blue Jays feel any less "inspired" than Orioles or Cardinals or Reds or Cubs? How is D-Back a pejorative term? If Native Americans didn't have innocuous team nicknames like Indians and Braves to protest a couple times a season, where else would they get that media coverage? Perhaps Catholics should protest the Padres, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving could boycott the Brewers. Perhaps the Nationals could declare their independence and fight a bloody revolutionary war against the Royals. I think offense is taken much more than it is given.

Slow news day, I guess...

silverpen00
silverpen00

I think Braves and Indians are just as racist as Redskins. The Indians logo in particular is completely derogatory. They should be outlawed throughout all sports levels.

John NoLastName
John NoLastName

I don't get how "Diamondbacks" is too long. So it's more letters than any other team ... so what? It's easy to say, it rolls off the tongue nicely."Rattlers" is silly. But ok, if you want to change 'em ... let's see ... you could go with the Arizona "Cactus Spines". Or how about the Arizona "Dust Devils"? Arizona "Gila Monsters"? Arizona "Overheated Radiators"?

"Braves" is nowhere near the same category as "Redskins", which is the equivalent to "N*gger", and in extreme poor taste. It needs to go. With "Indians", it's not so much offensive as it is irrelevant. What the hell does "Indians" have to do with baseball?

I don't get the problem with Miami Marlins, either. I think it sounds damn good, in fact.

You're right about the Jazz and Lakers, though. Everybody knows "Jazz" is a ridiculous name for a Salt Lake City team. Actually, they should be the "Lakers" (for the Great Salt Lake ... get it?), and the Lakers should be the Los Angeles "Surfer Dudes" or something.

DanielZollo
DanielZollo

"Arizona could have gone with “Rattlers,” used the same iconography and created a no-brainer give-away day in the process."

Rattlers like the existing Arena Football team, way to be original, and the give-away you eluded to, they used to sell them.


Reva P
Reva P

@Jake11 The are at least two professional sports teams in the US with the nickname "Giants".  There are two teams in teh Canadian Football League named Roughriders/Rough Riders, and the former is generally referred to as the green riders (for the primary team color).  The Rangers refers to the NHL team in NYC, to the MLB team in Arlington, TX and to the Glasgow soccer team.  

Your point is moot.

Reva P
Reva P

@GKL The Spiders was the name, chosen by the fans, when the team literally featured a large number of players with very long legs.  

Reva P
Reva P

@wildcard But this article is about team nicknames, not about team logos.

Jake11
Jake11

@wildcard Fair enough. Bills is actually one of the more clever names

Reva P
Reva P

@emkurz This was another team name that was chosen by fans, or in this case, potential fans.  (The same  was true for decades of the Cleveland MLB team. )   The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) was also a major shareholder in the early days, but calling the team the "Banks" or the "Imperials" would have been more than stupid.  Besides, the CIBC's color is a dark red, almost a maroon, and there is no evidence of that in the Jay's team colors.  

Jake11
Jake11

@Reva P One "Indian" does not speak for all Native Americans.  Additionally, is that a life-like representation of Louis Sockalexis on their hats?  I'm starting to have a lot more respect for LeBron after reading this very very angry comment on your part if it is representative of most people from  the Mistake by the Lake.

John NoLastName
John NoLastName

@Reva P Yes, I understand about the Cleveland team changing names under changing circumstances. Many other teams did something similar in the course of MLB history, naming themselves after the color of their uniforms, for instance.

But calling yourself the "Grays" or the "Reds" is hardly in the same category as calling yourself the "Indians". And because something was considered a "tribute" in the 19th century, does not mean it's considered a tribute now. Times change, attitudes become enlightened, sensitivities become more in tune with the demographic groups in question.

It's my understanding that, as a team name, "Indians" is only borderline offensive, at any rate not on par with "Redskins", which I'm sure you know is extremely derogatory and considered the equivalent to "n*gger".

My point earlier was that "Indians" is irrelevant to the sport of baseball and to the city of Cleveland. Certainly, you can make the same point about many team names. What does "Cubs" have to do with Chicago, for instance, or "Tigers" with Detroit?

But "Cubs" or "Tigers" do not disparage an entire demographic.

GKL
GKL

@Michael10 First, I have nothing against the Blue Jay name, but as to the Orioles and Cardinals, the names originated from a history.  They weren't just selected for how well they sound by some marketing guru.

As to the Cardinals, the old St. Louis Perfectos adopted a red uniform and the announcer noted that it was pretty cardinal color.  It stuck and the team changed its name.  The birds on the bat followed. So, the Cardinals were originally named for the color of their uniforms, not the bird.  

As to the Baltimore Orioles, the Baltimore Oriole is an actual species of bird which name long predates the baseball team.  It was a natural.  The original Baltimore Orioles baseball team, named for the bird, dates back to the 19th century.  When the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore after the 1953 season, it merely adopted a name which had long been used for Baltimore based baseball teams.

John NoLastName
John NoLastName

@Michael10 You're not getting it, Michael10. I'll explain it to you.

When it comes to names, offense is in the eye of the receiver, not the giver. If a name is offensive to the group in question, then it is offensive, period.

Certain words are perceived as offensive, others are not. "Padres" is not. "Brewers" is not. "Indians" is borderline, but "Redskins" is extremely derogatory. I realize you didn't specifically comment on "Redskins", but the word is the equivalent to "n*igger". I certainly hope you wouldn't try to defend the Washington N*ggers on the grounds that it was "traditional"? 

Let me also put it this way ... if a team were renamed the Washington Ignorant Rednecks or the Cleveland Dumb Polacks, what would your reaction be? I do hope you would be outraged. Those epithets should be offensive not only to the demographic groups in question, but to any intelligent person with a sense of propriety. There is no place in an enlightened society for team names that disparage an entire people.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@silverpen00 You political correctness addicts are always demanding another law to eliminate something that you don't like.   If you chronic complainers keep getting your way, eventually there will be no team names.

Reva P
Reva P

@silverpen00 Then you don't know the story that explains the Cleveland team's nickname.  Check it out.

Reva P
Reva P

@John NoLastName The Lakers began in Minneapolis, which means that the team nickname still doesn't make a lot of sense.  unless you consider that Minnesota is referred to as the land of ten thousand lakes.  But that's a state, not a city.

A laker is a name for any ship that plies North America's Great Lakes (there is also a Great Lakes region in Africa).  So, having a Salt Lake City team called the Lakers is equally incorrect.  But it would fit very well for Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, and that's just in the NBA.  IF you consider all professional sports teams in cities along the Great Lakes, you would also have to include Green Bay, Buffalo and Hamilton (ON - in the Canadian Football League).

Reva P
Reva P

@John NoLastName And "Diamondbacks" is much better than calling them, say, the Arizona Valley Fevers, which is another feature associated with the US Southwest.

Understand the story behind the name, and you'll understand the the Cleveland Indians is not an irrelevant name.

Reva P
Reva P

@DanielZolloI agree The strategy there would have been to cross-promote the teams.  Giveaways of MLB stuff at the AFL games, and giveaways of AFL stuff at MLB games, etc.  Someone fell down on the job in Phoenix.

Michael10
Michael10

@Reva P @Jake11 How is the point moot? He's talking about two teams in the same market...would've been a lame move to name a new MLB franchise after a local indoor sports team.

Reva P
Reva P

@Jake11 @Reva P I'm not from Cleveland.  I'm not even from the US.  I'm simply pointing out that there is an historic argument here that says that the name is NOT racist but one that honors another person.  The article was about team nicknames  not about team logos, and I agree that the Indians logo needs to change.

Michael10
Michael10

@GKL @Michael10 The myth of the Cardinals name generally cites a female spectator rather than an announcer (it was 1899 after all), but it's likely the name was more heavily influenced by the city's heavy Catholic population.

My point is, even though some of these names have more direct or storied origins, most are long forgotten. The names themselves ARE the history. Why the Detroit Tigers? I'm sure there's a story there somewhere, but it's not as important as Ty Cobb or Al Kaline or Sparky and the Boys in the summer and fall of 1984. And though there's less history behind the Blue Jays moniker, there is almost 40 years worth and I wouldn't want to recall it any other way. As a child I was initially attracted to the uniform (like that lady in 1899), but as I grew into an adult baseball fan, the logo came to represent Dave Steib, George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Tony Fernandez and later Joe Carter, Roberto Alomar, Paul Molitor, John Olerud and MLB's last back-to-back World Championships.

It's a good name with a rich history; all of them are. Don't go fiddling with them for the sake of fiddling...

Michael10
Michael10

@John NoLastName @Michael10 I suppose if Cleveland's team were named the Drunken Indians or the Ruthless Savages you might be able to draw an analogy to your Ignorant Rednecks or Dumb Polacks. As for Rednecks alone, I wouldn't find it anymore offensive than Yankees or Hoosiers or even Fighting Irish (which is certainly stereotypical).

The fact that offense is taken (by a "receiver") rather than given is the very point I'm making. Just because a group decides to take offense doesn't mean a name or word should be stricken from the lexicon. Consider the hundreds of teams that use a Cougar as their mascot, a name that was as harmless and as widely used as Eagles, Panthers, Bulldogs or Hawks--until the PC police in Utah decided last year that it might be offensive to oversexed, middle-aged women.

How long before gay rights activists start boycotting the NFL over Green Bay's longstanding moniker?

danmeboy
danmeboy

@Reva P @silverpen00 It does not matter where it came from, it does not make a stereotypical Sambo like caricature  ok. I am sure you believe that Louis would be so honored to see that logo as tribute to him. As a life-long fan of Cleveland, you can't convince me otherwise

Michael10
Michael10

@Reva P @Michael10 @Jake11 I explained the situation behind these two examples above--neither is a precedent (or justification) for naming a new MLB franchise after a minor league level sports team in the same market--which was the point of the original commenter.

Reva P
Reva P

@Michael10 @Reva P @Jake11 But for how long did the NFL and MLB have a team called the "Giants" in NYC?  How long did both the NFL and MLB have a team in St Louis called the "Cardinals"?  

Again, the point is moot.

Michael10
Michael10

@DMichaelMosher The NFL Cardinals moved into the St. Louis market from Chicago; they weren't named after the local baseball team. The Rockies revived a regional name that hadn't been in use for more than a decade--not since the NHL team left Denver for New Jersey to become the Devils. The fact that the NFL Giants had to differentiate their name from their MLB counterparts to maintain a distinct identity strengthens the point that naming a team after an existing one in the same market is a lame move. 

Point made, not moot.

DMichaelMosher
DMichaelMosher

Hmmm, St. Louis had 2 cardinals teams til one move to Arizona, NY had 2 giants teams til one move to SF. In fact that's why they started calling them the NY Football Giants. Denver had a hockey team called the Denver Rockies, now it has a baseball team by the same name... Point still moot.

Michael10
Michael10

@Jake11 @Michael10 @JoeCabot @John NoLastName The term "Indian" referred to the indigenous peoples of the West Indies (which Columbus mistook for the East Indies) and later, to the indigenous mainland tribes, too. It never referred to India. Why don't you crack a history book before trying to give a lesson. While you're at it, crack a dictionary, too. A "disparaging" name is one intended to belittle or give offense, not one based on a geographical misnomer. "Savages" is disparaging, "Indians" is not. In fact it had been embraced by many indigenous peoples over the last couple centuries (including my own grandparents) before postcolonial theory prompted the PC backlash of the last few decades.

By the way, Cowboys and Indians was a joke, but after your rant, I can see that you don't have much experience navigating the nuances of language or communication...

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@Jake11 In all my years of listening to, and reading posts from, the overly sensitive, politically correct wannabes, I have to admit that I have never come across the claim that the team name Indian is a mean and offensive name because Christopher Columbus made a mistake.  Instead of fighting your battles and attempting to show your level of enlightenment in cyberspace, why not hit the streets and actually do something to help these American Indians about whom you care so deeply.  Volunteer some time, some money, some food.  You know, something tangible, instead of a useless rant that you believe is serving society in some deep manner.

Jake11
Jake11

@Michael10 @JoeCabot @John NoLastName Seriously? The name "Indian" is itself disparaging because the people aren't from f'ing INDIA.  Columbus was an idiot.

Also, cowboys is a profession.  "Indian" is not.  That's like comaparing a team called the "Mexicans" to some random profession like "insurance salesmen". Go get a GED

Reva P
Reva P

@Michael10 @GKL And lets not forget (and in particular don't forget if you live in/around Philadelphia) that during WWII, that team was, temporarily, called the Blue Jays.

One of the reasons that more than one person suggested the BLue Jays as the team nickname back when a contest was held was that that species of bird is a fighting bird.  In that manner, it was meant, among other things, to inspire such team behavior.

Reva P
Reva P

@danmeboy @Reva P @silverpen00 nce again, the article is about team nicknames, NOT about team logos.  Argue the point of the article instead of arguing about something foreign to the article.