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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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.



That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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