Some Sports Team Nicknames, Mascots Under Fire

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APphoto_Redskins Name Football

Representative Ray Halbritter speaks during a news conference after the Oneida Indian Nation requested a meeting with NFL owners in hopes of persuading them to force Washington into dropping the nickname Redskins. (Credit: Louis Lanzano/Associated Press)

The best sports nicknames connote power, speed, bravery and even whimsy. But many fans say they see something else in some of the country’s most popular team names and mascots — racism.

The Oneida Indian Nation is pressuring the NFL and Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change that team’s name and logo, which many Native Americans say is offensive. And thousands of baseball fans have signed an online petition asking the Cleveland Indians to retire Chief Wahoo, the team’s smiling, red-faced caricature.


A Washington Redskins helmet, left; the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo. (Credit: Keith Allison/Ralf Peter Reimann/via Flickr/Creative Commons)

“Absolutely I’m offended by it personally,” says Sam Kay, the Ohio State graduate student and Indians fan who started the petition. “Belonging to a team that I support, it in a way speaks for me. That’s not the sort of thing that I’m really comfortable letting stand unopposed.”

Kay, who says he is not Native American, believes the campaign is having an effect. The logo no longer appears in many Major League Baseball graphics, having been replaced by the word “Indians” in red script. And when the team clinched a wild-card playoff berth last fall, Chief Wahoo was left off the official postseason apparel.

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