If you are familiar with my work at all then you know that I have a longstanding policy in place that wherever I write I refuse to use racist team names. There are times when I have to bend that policy, even if just for a moment in order to get across the stakes of the issue at hand. This article is going to be one of those times. Even knowing that I am bending the rule for a good cause, I still have a pause in doing so. Racist team nicknames hurt, lots of people, and using them is a sign of disrespect to those people. Right now is a time when those nicknames need to be used in order to make sure people understand the hypocrisy at play.
As the world continued to rebel against those in power over the death of George Floyd it became clear that some sort of cultural tipping point had been reached. Various corporations, brands, organizations, leagues, and teams made very public statements about the murder of Mr. Floyd. Only, most of them stopped short of calling it what it was, the murder of a black man by a police officer. It was frustrating to see statement after statement refuse to acknowledge the reality of what had happened. Then Major League Baseball teams and finally MLB itself released a series of statements.
It was bad enough that an organization like MLB had the temerity to say they have always been against racism. We know that’s a lie, that MLB teams and owners fought tooth and nail to keep their organization segregated. That they fought so hard to keep it segregated lays bare the fact that MLB was segregated, to begin with. At its very core MLB has a deeply racist history and their refusal to acknowledge that history is maddening. However, it pales in comparison to the anger that welled up inside of me when two very specific statements were released.
The Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians are racist organizations. They have shrouded themselves in racist imagery, song, dance, and verbiage. Their very names are racist and that’s why it is very troubling that either organization thought it would behoove them to release a statement on the killing of Mr. Floyd. Neither team can claim to be against racism, they did, when their very names are racist and they refuse to even acknowledge that fact. This would have been a great time for either team to remain silent and not speak up because any statement they released would be justifiably scrutinized and picked apart because of who was making said statement. It would have been an even better time for both teams to announce they were changing their names because they wanted to take an honest stand against racism.
It is galling that I have to write an article outlining why two teams with racist nicknames shouldn’t be issuing statements that they are against racism. This isn’t an issue of branding gone wrong or a public relations snafu. Rather, it is two teams who are racist down to their very name trying to tell the world they are against racism. They aren’t, they can’t be, their very existence is racist.
MLB is well aware of how racist it is to have two teams named the Indians and Braves. They don’t care and they never will because from the beginning of its existence MLB has been comfortable with only two things: making money and being racist. In regards to those two efforts, MLB operates like a well-oiled machine. Even now while they, and their member clubs, are making statements about how bad racism is and how they would never stand for it they are selling racist Braves and Indians gear. The Braves and Indians exist, and as long as they remain MLB can never truly be against racism or care about its effects.