WHY NOT NOW?

Here’s why it's past time for sports to adopt a new code of conduct

Braves, Blackhawks, Chiefs – your time is coming. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Although it was reported that the Cleveland baseball team would drop its "Indians" nickname in favor of "a new, non-Native American based name" in time for the upcoming season, Cleveland owner Paul Dolan says the team will play as Indians one more year.

"We'll be the Indians in 2021 and then after that, it's a difficult and complex process to identify a new name and do all the things you do around activating that name," Dolan said, after conferring with officials from several indigenous groups, like the Cleveland Indigenous Coalition and the National Congress of American Indians.

"We are going to work at as quick a pace as we can while doing it right. But we're not going to do something just for the sake of doing it. We're going to take the time we need to do it right."

It's a disappointing delay. The right time to do it right was long ago. If something will be a good idea in 2022, why not now?

Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks, Kansas City Chiefs – your time is coming.

Maybe there was an era when it was OK to have sports nicknames reflect ethnic groups, but not today. While "Indians" or "Braves" may not be as obscenely racist as "Redskins," it's a simple rule: if the name is unacceptable or upsets or hurts the feelings of the group referred to, that's enough, don't use it. Change it to something more clever or more tolerant, easier to get behind.

1995, Atlanta and the Indians met in the World Series. As expected there were demonstrations in front of both ballparks. Ken Rhyne, then co-director of the American Indian Movement, said, "We're the only race of people that has sports mascots and sports teams named after them. If it was the Atlanta Negroes, the Atlanta Hispanics, any situation like that, the stadium would be burned down overnight."

Teams should stick to Bears or Eagles or Giants. Naming a team after its GPS is always safe. Everybody who lives near NRG Stadium is a Texan by virtue of zip code, license plate or brains in their heads. So the McNairs named their team "Texans." It's a unifying nickname that everybody can relate to, that inspires pride in our hometown. In fact, the team's marketing slogan one year was "We are Texans." All of us. By comparison, only a small percentage of people who live in Ohio are Native Americans.

It is disheartening how wearing a facemask to combat COVID-19, taking down statues honoring Confederate war leaders, and sports teams' nicknames have become political firestorms.

As Bob Dylan said in The Times They Are A'Changing, "the line it is drawn." Many conservatives, including President Trump, don't want Native American-inspired team nicknames changed. Liberals, for the most part, do.

The sad thing is, Washington finally giving up Redskins, and Cleveland announcing it will stop using Indians, shouldn't be based on politics. It's about inclusion, kindness and sensitivity.

A few years ago, Robert E. Lee High School in Houston changed its name to Margaret Long Wisdom High School. How would you feel if you were African-American, you worked hard, joined the Army, and paid your taxes. Yet you had to send your children to a school named after an insurgent general who killed U.S. soldiers to protect the right of slave masters to own your ancestors?

Still think that sports nicknames aren't political red meat? Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the two incumbent U.S. Senators from Georgia involved in a heated runoff election, released a joint statement this week. About the economy? Coronavirus? Foreign policy?

Sens. Loeffler and Perdue, both conservative Republicans, said, "We adamantly oppose any effort to rename the Atlanta Braves. Not only are the Braves a Georgia institution, they're an American institution. The Braves' name honors our nation's Native American heritage, which should not be erased, and under no circumstances should one of the most celebrated teams in sports cave to the demands of the cancel culture and the radical left."

Cleveland and Atlanta already have taken steps to disengage from their Native American nicknames and images. Cleveland has stopped using Chief Wahoo as its mascot, and Atlanta has toned down encouraging fans from doing the tomahawk chop. Both seem to be surviving the controversy, both made the 2020 baseball playoffs.

The currently (and temporarily) named Washington Football Team finished 3-13 last year as the Redskins. This season, they're 6-7, in first place in the NFC East. Call it karma, although their improvement probably has more to do with the play of medical miracle quarterback Alex Smith than dropping their racist nickname.

Across the U.S. hundreds of high schools, colleges and pro sports teams have changed, they are in the process, or giving thought to dropping offensive nicknames in favor of something kinder and less hurtful.

Cleveland owner Dolan has seen the light. "It was a learning process for me and I think when fair-minded, open-minded people really look at it, think about it and maybe even spend some time studying it, I like to think they would come to the same conclusion: It's (Indians) a name that had its time, but this is not the time now, and certainly going forward, the name is no longer acceptable in our world."

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TEXANS TRAINING CAMP WATCH

11 Texans training camp observations from August 7th

Houston Texans insider dishes on why Derek Stingley Jr was the right pick

The Houston Texans had a “vanilla” day of light work. Here are 11observations from the workout.

1. It was a light day for the Texans. Some would say sluggish, I wouldn’t agree with that. Did it look like a day off was in order? Yes. Did anyone make mental mistakes because of their energy level? Not that I could see. With it being a lighter day, it might be worthwhile to focus on some of the depth on the roster.

2. Isaac Yiadom (pronounced YEAH-dum) has had some moments in training camp. With rookie Derek Stingley having a light day, Yiadom played opposite Steven Nelson. Yiadom has had a few pass breakups and seems to be physical in coverage. He has a little speed to him, or he’s shown the ability to stick with wideouts. He is a top preseason game target to watch.

3. Phillip Dorset had a very nice back-of-the-end zone catch. It might have, likely even, been a sack for the defense in a live rep or team rep, but Davis Mills ripped the ball out as the whistle was starting to sound. Dorset with two feet in the back after juking a defender. He is squarely behind other wideouts having missed time but being a veteran should catch up quickly.

4. Wideout Connor Wedington had a few nice plays on Sunday. He has an uphill battle to make the roster, but Davis Mills’ former teammate might squeeze his way into the conversation. There are opportunities for him with a few other wideouts banged up.

5. Rookie tight end Tegan Quitoriano bodied his way for a touchdown. The rookie hasn’t done much in camp, but his size is clearly an advantage. Game reps and more padded practice will be important for him this preseason.

6. Chris Moore is a veteran taking yet another swing at making this team. If the Texans played tomorrow, I would have him on the roster. Probably even starting at slot wideout. He had a very nice leaping grab today.

7. Versatility for a couple of backup offensive linemen may lead to them making the team. Well, it certainly won’t hurt their case. Justin McCray has played all three interior offensive line spots. The veteran could start if needed, but I have to imagine he is a key backup inside. Scott Quessenberry (yes related to former Texans lineman David and current fullback Paul) played guard on Sunday. He is a factor to be Justin Britt’s backup at center.

8. Charlie Heck was not a pick I was in love with when Bill O’Brien selected him a couple of seasons ago. Heck has grown a lot in his game and physically and is surely the backup tackle for this team. He can play left and right tackle.

9. Tae Davis plays linebacker and wears 19. It is the strangest thing to see a linebacker in that number. It has not been strange to see Davis make a play here or there in practice. The linebacker room is loaded but Davis is making the most of his chances.

10. Ka’imi Fairbairn HAMMERED a ball right down the uprights after Davis Mills had led the team into field goal range on a last-minute drill. Mills easily moved the team down the field without the normal group of linemen or weapons. Good finish to practice.

11. Jonathan Greenard did some pushups after he couldn’t replicate history. Greenard almost had his second interception of Davis Mills, but the ball fell incomplete. Greenard has been a force in training camp.

Bonus Quote of the Day: “I was a fat guy last year” said Pharaoh Brown as he talked about his leaner and quicker frame compared to last year.

Listen to Cody Stoots weekdays afternoons 3-7pm on his show "The Wheelhouse" live on ESPN 97.5 + 92.5 FM or anytime on demand at the podcast here.

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