Cleveland’s MLB name change should set example for high schools


Last summer as racial and social justice issues came to the forefront of our country’s attention, Cherokee Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin sent a letter to leaders at Port Neches-Groves ISD with a simple, yet strong message.

“We believe that the current national dialogue has provided Port Neches-Groves with the opportunity to reevaluate its use of Native American culture, practices and symbols in its own school traditions,” Hoskin wrote in that letter.

PN-G, which has used the “Indians” mascot since 1925, chose not to take advantage of that “opportunity” mentioned by Hoskin, instead keeping its name and practices without much discussion. A year later, the school – and many others in Texas – now have another chance to change with the times.

Cleveland’s MLB franchise announced Friday it will change its mascot to the “Guardians” starting next season. It was the last move in a slow but steady push by the franchise away from its “Indians” mascot after decades of backlash from the Native American community.

In 2018, Cleveland removed the Chief Wahoo logo from its uniforms. In December, the team announced it would select a new name that had no ties to Native Americans.

As some professional and collegiate franchises continue to distance themselves from Native American mascots, high schools in Texas would do well to take a lesson from these moves. Cleveland’s MLB name change should once again show PN-G that it’s time for a switch of its own.

I don’t mean to pick on PN-G. The school is hardly alone with an insensitive mascot. Many other schools in the state also use the “Indians” name, including district foe Santa Fe High School.

Don’t get me started on Evadale’s use of the “Rebels” mascot. It’s so bad I’d have to write a completely different column on that.

Dozens of schools across the state still use “Indians” as their name, but I don’t believe any embrace the mascot quite like PN-G. There’s the “Indian Spirit” mascot on PN-G’s sideline at every football game, not to mention the “Indianettes” wearing Native American headdress.

“Scalp ‘Em” is a term often shouted by PN-G fans in the stands. The sign was removed last year, but that was due to its fading condition and not for the content on the sign

.While high schools like PN-G continue these practices, professional teams are banning them from games. Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs prohibited fans from wearing headdress or facepaint that appropriate Native American cultures.

Bigger headlines were made last summer by Washington’s NFL franchise, which dropped its “Redskins” mascot. Unfortunately, multiple high schools in Texas didn’t get the memo.

Donna High School located in south Texas still uses the “Redskins” name, while the Harlandale Indians in San Antonio use the same Redskins logo.

Schools like these try to defend themselves by using words like “tradition” and “honor,” but it seems more like a thinly-veiled excuse to me. In Chief Hoskin’s letter to PN-G last year, he clearly stated that none of the school’s traditions honored anything about Native Americans.

And there have been plenty of high schools change their names quite successfully, too. Look at Lamar High School in Houston. They are now the “Texans” after nixing the “Redskins” name in 2014, and it seems to have worked out just fine.

Whether you like it or not, more and more teams at all levels of athletics will change their names in the coming years. It’s just a matter of time, and it’s the right thing to do.

The longer schools like PN-G and others try to hold on to their Indian “traditions,” the worse they look.

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