I have written about team names and mascots for years. The flashpoint was previously the Washington Football Team. But once the WFT decided to drop their old name, the focal point for the fight against Native American Mascots shifted to Cleveland.
Yesterday, the story broke that the Cleveland Baseball Team (CBT) will also be dropping its former name. What is next? For Cleveland, maybe the Foresters (an oddly popular student idea), the Wildcats (so generic it's innovative), or Cleveland BT or BC.
From a marketing perspective, it is the correct move. These types of team names or team brands have become more liabilities than assets. Yes, the historic and well-known names provide a point of connection for generations of fans. But, the upside of fighting an endless battle is too small.
The more interesting question is who is next?
Over the years, I have done a class assignment where students select a team with a problem or potential problem brand and propose a rebranding. The organizations selected range from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Nashville Predators (think Chris Hansen). Over the last few years, any mascot that has a distinctive ethnicity has come under fire.
The Ragin Cajun’s is not sufficiently inclusive.
I don’t think this story ends with the CBT.
On a side note, the mascot and team name controversies highlight some unfortunates parts of the modern journalistic and academic worlds. These names must no longer be spoken. I don’t even know if “Native American” is still acceptable.
I used to use the former team names in articles and interviews. But I found myself being censored on outlets like NPR. My new policy is to treat these names the same way as every character in the Hogwarts universe except Harry Potter treats Voldemort.
They who shall be named.
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