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How I Changed My Mind About Changing Names

July 18, 2022

Have you ever heard of the Cleveland Guardians? They are a professional baseball team.

How about the Washington Commanders? They are a professional football team.

I don’t blame you if you’ve never heard of them. They used to have different names.

For 86 years the Washington Commanders were known as the Washington Redskins. And then for two years they were the Washington Football Team. And now they are the Commanders.

The Cleveland Guardians had a different name for 101 years. Since 1920 they were the Cleveland Indians. This year they changed their name to the Guardians.

I used to care about teams keeping their names. It was tradition. Tradition should count for something, I thought. And is Indians an offensive name? I mean, it’s a pretty benign name, right? Sure, we’ve changed over mostly to saying Native Americans, or Indigenous People, or even First Peoples. But, Indians is still acceptable.

Okay, Redskins is obviously a derogatory term. But, it’s a name and if you don’t like the name you don’t have to follow the team.

When I was a kid Seattle had a basketball team. We loved watching the team at my house. My dad was not just a fan but would often have a little money on the game. The thing is the team was originally the Seattle Supersonics. They were named after the jets that rolled out of the Boeing factories. Actually, one particular plane that was supposed to go “super sonic.” The plane didn’t work out, but the team did.

And then, somewhere along the way people quit calling them the Supersonics and just changed it to Sonics.

Major League Baseball has a team called the Rays. They used to be the Devil Rays. They changed the name. The Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals. The Boston Red Sox used to be the Red Stockings. Later they moved to Atlanta can became the Braves.

I realized names change all the time. Not all teams that changed their names did so because their name was offensive. If we can change names that are perfectly fine, like Supersonics, Red stockings and Devil Rays (it’s a fish,) why not change names that some groups find offensive?

Deb Haaland is the current Secretary of the Interior. What makes Secretary Haaland unique is that she’s the first Secretary of the Interior who is also Native American. One of the things she has pushed for is renaming sites on federal land that have offensive names.

What she has no control over is lands on state land or private land. There’s a peak not far from my house called Squaw Peak. That’s its official name. Should it be changed?

I used to have an opinion. Tradition and all that.

But, I realized that the way traditions start is because someone at some time made a change. So, I decided that if the current name is offensive to a group, why not change it? It was named by someone at some point.

So, cheer for the Guardians, the Commanders, the Sonics (well, eventually they might come back), the Rays and the Red Stockings. And I’ll forward to the day they rename Squaw Peak to a name that’s not offensive to a group.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

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