Millions of dollars are being lost from the absence of fans, television viewership numbers are down significantly, and the sports world is continuing to struggle in the midst of a pandemic, yet the most controversial topic over the past year has been team names. With the rise in social media and the liberal media essentially running the world, the phenomenon that is “Cancel Culture” has developed.
This is a form of ostracism that occurs when a person or group is called out for something they said or did that is not politically correct. It has had a positive impact on society, as it has helped expose some awful people. However, in 2020, everyone is at risk of being “Cancelled”. At what point does this epidemic get out of hand and has it already gone too far?
Within sports, the most common instances of players being “canceled” comes from old tweets being discovered, trouble with the law, or performance-enhancing drugs. But on a larger scale, team names have now become the main perpetrators guilty of violating these politically correct barriers. Recent movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter have brought light to some very long overdue issues. Unfortunately, these movements have sparked social media extremists to attack almost every news story to catch their eye, therefore starting the tradition of “canceling” any person, place, or group that are even the slightest controversial.
The main problem with claiming everything as offensive is that the more important movements start to get taken less seriously as a result. Calling everyone out for their flaws ultimately cheapens the value of the meaningful issues that should be dealt with.
There are good reasons for changing certain traditions, especially when they may offend a specific group, with the most prominent example over the past few years being the Washington Redskins name. Their name has been a long-standing issue for a while, as the Redskins name is a derogatory term often associated with Native Americans. This was a name change that was necessary and should have been done years ago.
However, since they dropped the Redskins name, Washington needed to find a new team name. The alternate choice they decided on was the Washington Football Team, a terrible name from a marketing standpoint. The entire reasoning behind changing the name of the football team was to stop people from using the term “Redskin”. With no real name, people will still revert to calling the Washington Football Team by their original name. They had the Redskins brand as a part of their logo since 1937. History does not just erase itself, as the name will always be ingrained within the culture.
Cancel culture made the name the CenterPoint of the issue, but in reality, it was the disrespect to the source of the name that was really the problem. Instead of just making a name change the top priority, the team should have been encouraged to contribute to Native American organizations to actually benefit the cause. The offensive name has hurt people, but it is the Washington organization profiting from the Redskins name that has had the true impact. This football team has been making millions for 82 years and the people who actually represent the brand have seen zero financial support. A name only holds so much value, but the background behind it is what matters. The Redskins should have still changed their name, but had they actually contributed to Native American organizations and worked with them in respectful ways, then this controversy is not nearly as loud.
With Washington being the first team to officially change their name, more teams in other sports are starting to be put on trial for their team names. This has led the baseball’s Cleveland Indians to cave into criticism and drop their name after over a century with the brand. They are another franchise who have had fans and Native American groups protest the team, though this situation may end up being very similar to the Washington one. They have not decided on a new name and in a sport full of traditionalists, there is no way the Indians name will be forgotten anytime soon. The professional analysts, reporters, and announcers in the industry will learn to adjust, but changing people’s perspective on teams that have been around forever is a difficult task to achieve. The Montreal Expos, Seattle Supersonics, and Houston Oilers are all names that are no longer relevant, but still hold a presence within the history of their respective sport.
Respect is the major key with most of these name changes. Native American groups have felt disrespected by these names and they deserved reparations for their usage. Honor is a significant aspect of most Indigenous cultures, which is why these name changes have become so pressing. Though, in order for teams to be proactive and keep with the times, then these changes need to be done correctly.
When a name change is done out of panic because of media criticism, teams end up without a name like the Washington Football Team. Marketing plays a huge role, as there are no fans who want to support a team without an identity. They are not going to buy merchandise that has no meaning, therefore they will stand with the former Redskins name.
What is difficult for non-sports fans to understand is that a team is usually a major part of a fan’s identity. It is a part of the person they are and taking away a team name without care is taking away from their identity. People generally identify with teams over identifying with players because of what that brand represents. Fandom stems from multiple sources, whether it be location, family, or just interest, but in the end, the team is what matters.
Just over a week ago, the Vancouver Canucks began getting bereded with criticism to change their name due to cultural appropriation. Many of the previous name changes were not handled in the smoothest manners, but it was essential that they happened. The demand that the Canucks change their logo is an example of Cancel culture going slightly too far.
Sean Carleton, a historian at the University of Manitoba believes that the organization should not profit from their Orca logo because it was designed by a non-Indigenous person, but inspired by the art of the Haida people. This is an indigenous group who resides around the area where the Canucks play. Unlike the term “Redskin”, where the name is blatantly offensive, an orca that resembles artwork should not be scrutinized to the same degree.
The franchise announced that they would consider tweaking the logo to appease the people offended, but do not want to completely eliminate it. People are aggravated because the team plays in Vancouver, which is located on stolen Indigenous territory. The hockey team has been urged to help out the local indigenous communities and it is likely they will follow suit soon. These types of situations really trap franchises, as the media will pressure the teams until alterations are final.
Sports are just as much a business as any other industry, albeit an entertainment business. Therefore, rebranding an entire organization is a legitimate process that takes time, legal action, and should not be rushed. Cancel culture does not only point out issues, but always demands immediate change. These people attack and attack, when in reality they are doing nothing to help the issue other than going after others. Racism should not be tolerated, but defining everything as “racist” cheapens the nature of the word.
We live in an age where cultural appropriation is taken seriously and that is a major milestone for society. People should be held accountable for their actions. It is just when Cancel culture goes beyond the realm of reasonable to ridiculous when problems begin to arise. We already live in a politically correct word; there is no need to put everyone and everything on trial.