As conversations spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement cause organizations to consider their response to matters of racial injustice, more and more teams are facing scrutiny over their dated names and logos.
On Tuesday, Edmonton’s CFL team announced it will abandon its longtime ‘Eskimos’ name.
Here are just a few of the prominent name changes in sports over the years.
The Washington Bullets changed their name to the Washington Wizards in 1997 because of the previous name’s violent connotations. The optics were particularly bad in a city that was seeing one of America’s highest rates of homicide at the time. Although this change had nothing to do with race, it was one of the first major examples of sponsors pressuring a team owner leading to a permanent team name change.
Cleveland Indians and Chief Wahoo
The Cleveland Indians still have the same name but announced in 2018 they would be retiring their longtime mascot Chief Wahoo. Both the mascot and team’s name have been derided as racist since at least the 1970s. Indians owner Paul Dolan announced the logo wold no longer appear on uniforms or stadiums and it was banned from future Hall of Fame plaques. But the team still reportedly sells some merchandise with the old logo at their physical store in Ohio.
The Golden State Warriors are one of the best-known teams in the NBA, but what is less known is the logo of their predecessor. Prior to 1969, the team was known as the Philadelphia Warriors and had the logo of an Indigenous man dribbling a basketball. When the team moved to San Francisco in 1969, they dropped the logo in favour of the Golden Gate Bridge.
More recently and closer to home, the male varsity athletic teams representing McGill University in Montreal were known as the McGill Redmen. The term was first adopted in 1927 and was actually meant to reflect James McGill’s Scottish heritage and hair colour. Later on, Indigenous imagery was incorporated in the team’s branding. In 2019, the university announced It would abandon the name.
Earlier this month, the Washington Redskins announced they would change their name and logo after FedEx, one of the team’s part owners, pressured them to do so. Fans have expressed mixed reactions to the change, while Native American groups welcomed the rebranding.
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