Let’s switch gears from a stinky division rival to a good division rival.
One of the things you’re seeing in regard to the Washington football team name change is that other sporting franchises with similar Native American names or images are also revisiting their monikers, or feeling outside pressure to do so. Terry Francona believes it’s time to change the Cleveland Indians name, while the Atlanta Braves sent an email to season ticket holders touching on the topic.
Paul Lukas, who runs the @UniWatch Twitter account, shared the entire thing online, and I highlighted some of the key parts in bold:
“Dear (ticket holder name),
Recently, there have been reports in the news regarding various team names in the world of sports. We wanted to let you know directly from us where we stand.
The Atlanta Braves honors, respects and values the Native American community. As an organization, we have always drawn strength from our diversity and respect for everyone. That will never change.
We have had an active and supportive relationship with the Native American community for many years. Last fall, we furthered this relationship and pledged to meet and listen to Native American and tribal leaders from many areas, including the Eastern Band of the Cherokees (EBCI) in North Carolina. As a result, we formed a cultural working relationship with the EBCI and have also formed a Native American Working Group with a diverse collection of other tribal leaders to collaborate on matters related to culture, education, outreach, and recognition on an on-going basis.
Through our conversations, changing the name of the Braves is not under consideration or deemed necessary. We have great respect and reverence for our name and the Native American communities that have held meaningful relationships with us do as well. We will always be the Atlanta Braves.
As it relates to the fan experience, including the chop, it is one of the many issues that we are working through with the advisory group. The chop was popularized by our fans when Deion Sanders joined our team and it continues to inspire our players on the field. With that in mind, we are continuing to listen to the Native American community, as well as our fans, players, and alumni to ensure we are making an informed decision on this part of our fan experience.
Integrating learnings from our meetings with the Native American tribal leaders, we are working together to elevate Native American culture and language on a continuous basis. Activations include a permanent exhibit inside the ballpark honoring Native Americans, designing merchandise and other ways to support indigenous language, and partnering with Native American content producers to showcase the positive impacts Native American tribes and tribal leaders have had on our history and the community. Some of these activities are new and some have been on-going for a long time. We are committed to having a strong connection with the Native American community, which includes showcasing important past, present, and future aspects of their culture.
Our efforts will be comprehensive and ever evolving, and always in partnership with the Native American community. As we work through this process in the coming weeks and months, we will continue to inform our fans on our progress and activities.
Now that’s a great email. They get out in front of the issue with a well-written, informative, and reasonable communication. The Braves point out the connection they have with the Native American community and talk about ways to “elevate” the culture and language on a regular basis.
That was always my take with the Redskins name, that if we were going to change it, then Native Americans should get the right of first refusal, that their voices should be heard first, and their opinions weighed more heavily than ours. If they choose to dissociate entirely with the Washington team, it’s 100% fair and understood, their prerogative entirely.
In the Braves’ case, they were always more proactive with their name and imagery and tried to stay ahead when society began to exhibit a changing opinion on Native American titles and branding. Same with the Florida State Seminoles. Daniel Snyder, for comparison, was super stuffy and resisted all efforts to revisit the Redskins name, which resulted in him being forced to change it because big-money sponsors started hitting him where it counts.