Over the course of the last few months, the nationwide protests over racial justice have unearthed a myriad of issues.
That includes a resumption of the debate of whether teams should use Native American mascots.
Of course, the Cleveland Indians have been at the center of this debate for decades, although the primary reason for that is now retired.
However, when the Indians announced July 3 that they were reviewing a potential name change, it brought out a lot of emotions from fans and other observers.
"We are committed to making a positive impact in our community and embrace our responsibility to advance social justice and equality," the team said in a statement on July 3. "Our organization fully recognizes our team name is among the most visible ways in which we connect with the community. We have had ongoing discussions organizationally on these issues. The recent unrest in our community and our country has only underscored the need for us to keep improving as an organization on issues of social justice.
"With that in mind, we are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name. While the focus of the baseball world shifts to the excitement of an unprecedented 2020 season, we recognize our unique place in the community and are committed to listening, learning and acting in the manner that can best unite and inspire our city and all those who support our team."
Lest any believe this is a new debate, consider the following:
Stanford University changed its mascot from "Indians" to "Cardinals" (later to "Cardinal") back in 1972.
Closer to home, there were three colleges in the Mid-American Conference that had Native American mascots as recently as the 1990s. Eastern Michigan changed from "Hurons" to "Eagles" in 1991. Then in 1997, at the urging of the Miami Tribe, Miami University switched from "Redskins" to "RedHawks."
Central Michigan University still goes by the name "Chippewas," but it does so with the official support of the nearby Saginaw Chippewa Tribe.
That consent allowed CMU to weather a 2005 policy change from the NCAA, which limited the use of imagery "hostile and abusive" to Native Americans.
Similar tribal consent agreements at the University of Utah (Utes) and Florida State University (Seminoles) allowed these schools to maintain their mascots, but other schools changed.
Now, the debate has returned to the professional ranks.
There’s been formal protests to have the Washington Redskins change their name for decades.
Owner Daniel Snyder has often been defiant, saying in 2013, "We'll never change the name. ... It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."
However, as of July 3, Snyder appears ready to relent — in no small part due to sponsors putting pressure on the team.
To be clear, the word "Redskin" is viewed as a racial slur by many Native Americans. "Indian" doesn’t carry as much of a negative connotation.
However, the Cleveland Indians can’t escape the fact that, for decades, the team burnished what was viewed as one of the most racist symbols in sports.
The grinning face of Chief Wahoo was the Indians’ primary mascot/logo from just after World War II onward. For much of that time, Native Americans noted it was a stereotypical caricature of their people.
During the last decade, the Indians slowly tried to make Chief Wahoo less prominent, but protesters were still vocal about the mascot during the 2016 World Series.
The chief was finally retired after the 2018 season, with Major League Baseball noting it would not be shown or merchandise sold with it in the future.
If the team wanted to make a clean break with this decades-long stain, maybe the Indians should have changed their name after the 2018 season as well.
Maybe the Indians are reacting to what’s going on with the Redskins. Perhaps similar moves could come from the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Blackhawks.
Of course, many Indians fans won’t be happy with a name change. Checking out social media, it’s clear many are still upset about the retirement of Chief Wahoo.
My take: I’m going to root for the team because it has "Cleveland" on its uniform, period.
That said, baseball in Cleveland has endured decades of controversy and protests over a perceived racist image.
Some folks might not want to hear it, but perhaps changing the name will finally put to bed the rancor Chief Wahoo caused.
It would be nice to cheer for a team that doesn’t draw attention for perceived racism or cultural appropriation.
Don’t worry about the team’s actual mascot. Even if the name does change, I’m pretty sure Slider isn’t going anywhere.
On a more serious note, if Cleveland pro baseball changes, it could be time for high schools with Native American mascots to consider their options.
Forest Hills Local Schools, located east of Cincinnati, is going through that process now as it looks to change Anderson High School’s mascot from "Redskins."
There are dozens of high schools in Ohio that use "Indians," "Braves," "Warriors," "Redskins" or a specific tribe name as their mascot.
In Summit County alone, there are the Copley Indians and Walsh Jesuit Warriors, both of whom use Native American imagery.
It might take a long time to make sure all these mascots are respectful of Native American peoples.
At the professional level, though, maybe it’s time to move on.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GAN on Twitter.