Last week, Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben got stripped from grocery store shelves as corporations bowed down to the demands of people who strike me as trying to rewrite history.
For reasons unclear to me, they believe ripping labels off syrup bottles will cure racism (I anticipate racial tensions inside federal penitentiaries are now eliminated thanks to Uncle Ben’s face being removed from orange boxes of rice).
Lucky Charms, Coco Puffs, Quaker Oats, Little Caesar, Snap, Crackle, and Pop, Cap’n Crunch, Keebler elves, Doughboy, Little Debbie, Eskimo Pie, and the Chiquita lady. Not once did I ever look at any of these brands and think, “Wow, those folks at General Mills are racist, sexist, heightist, and weightiest.”
As a native American (that’s right, I was born in America), I was never offended by any of these inanimate depictions.
In fact the only brand label I’ve got beef with is that scarf-wearing European known as the Red Baron. Here’s a guy that shot down 80 airplanes in World War I killing dozens of Allied lives, yet his legacy is honored with a glorious depiction of a striking mustachioed man.
Besides being the face of frozen pizza that tastes like cardboard, Manfred von Richthofen is also cherished at Christmas time for shouting “Merry Christmas, my friend,” to America’s favorite dog Snoopy.
As a proud American and staunch supporter of dogs, I am extremely offended that the Red Baron tried to kill a lovable hound like Snoopy, only sparing his life because it was Jesus’ birthday (it’s quicker to email your complaints directly to my boss Jim, firstname.lastname@example.org).
I can hear some of you groaning as you gut through this column. “Stick to sports, Nick. That’s what you get paid to do, write about sports and keep your political statements to a minimum.”
Touché. Sports it is.
This past week I have been playing my new favorite game, “Will It Survive to 2025?”
I throw out a team name and then I discuss with a few of my degenerate friends whether it will be in existence 5 years from now.
The best way to execute this exercise was to break it down into 3 different categories: no risk, low risk, and high risk.
I went through all 123 different team names in the 4 major sports and compiled the following.
Marlins, Mets, Phillies, Nationals, Cubs, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Dodgers, Orioles, Red Sox, White Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, Tigers, Twins, Astros, Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Nets, Knicks, 76ers, Raptors, Bulls, Cavaliers, Pistons, Pacers, Bucks, Hawks, Hornets, Heat, Magic, Wizards, Nuggets, Timberwolves, Thunder, Jazz, Clippers, Lakers, Suns, Kings, Mavericks, Rockets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs, Bruins, Sabres, Red Wings, Panthers, Canadiens, Senators, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Blue Jackets, Islanders, Rangers (NY), Flyers, Penguins, Capitals, Avalanche, Stars, Wild, Blues, Jets, Ducks, Coyotes, Flames, Oilers, Kings, Sharks, Golden Knights, Dolphins, Jets, Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Steelers, Texans, Colts, Jaguars, Titans, Broncos, Chargers, Eagles, Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings, Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Cardinals, Rams, 49ers, Seahawks, and Royals. Did you know the team name “Royal” originates from the “American Royal,” a livestock/horse show, rodeo and championship barbeque competition held annually in Kansas City since 1899?
Cincinnati Reds: As long as people know that “Reds” refers to red stockings and not the skin tone of Indians, the “Reds” nickname will remain. However, the risk is low because the meaning of words can morph very quickly. In the 1980s, the word “goat” referred to the player who cost the team the game. Now it shorthand for “greatest of all time.” So it’s possible that “Reds” gets misremembered, but the odds are minimal.
Milwaukee Brewers: Being the supplier of a mind-altering substance that is associated with 88,000 deaths of Americans each year, the Brewers name is a risk, albeit low. Approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women die each year from alcohol-related causes, making alcohol the 3rd leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Nonetheless, the risk will remain low because beer companies like Miller pay mega-money in sponsorships and advertising, which is a vital revenue stream for the MLB.
Pittsburgh Pirates / Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Oakland (Las Vegas) Raiders: Sailing ships around the ocean to pillage and plunder foreign vessels, invading colonies to steal valuable treasure and committing unspeakable acts of violence and abuse against men, women and children is frowned upon in society today. Without discussion, pirates are not upstanding citizens of society. But thanks to Disney’s brilliance and ability to rewrite history, pirates are viewed as heroic outlaws who are willing to defy the rules and standards of big government. With 5 major motion pictures and a charming boat ride at Disney World, the perception of pirates remain lovable, outlawed, folk heroes instead of murderous villains.
San Diego Padres: Anytime religion is involved, risk is involved. “Padre” means Christian clergyman and, more specifically, a priest. Let’s be honest: the past decade has been tough on the perception of priests. Allegations of abuse stretched from coast to coast, as evidence suggested systematic cover-ups for the crimes committed. Also, affiliation with one religion then dissociates you from all other religions, which could be misinterpreted into non-inclusive practices. I bet the Freedom From Religion folks have postmarked San Diego frequently with their letters of complaint. However, the risk for the name “Padres” remains low and taking away the only Spanish nickname would be a dangerous dance for MLB, with the risk of losing a strong contingency of Latino fans outweighing the reward of changing names.
NY / SF Giants: This isn’t my vote. But according to my 6-foot-3 co-worker Emma, being called a “giant” is offensive, especially in the bar on a Friday night. Look, Giants, I don’t see it. But then again, maybe I don’t see it because I’m not way up there. But, far be it for the kind of tall people like me (6’1”) to understand the struggles and hardships of the super tall.
NY Yankees / NE Patriots: I can’t believe I am writing this but, the term “yankee” and “patriot” in the past 2 weeks have taken a real hit. I never thought I would see the day where Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington, Ulysses S Grant and other American heroes are now demonized. I mean, if the Museum of Natural History democratically decided to remove the statue of Theodore Roosevelt from their front steps, that means more than a few cuckoo rioters are thinking this way (the name, natural history is ironic, isn’t it?). Will the Yankees / Patriots team names survive? See the Battle of Yorktown for your answer.
Texas Rangers / Dallas Cowboys: Formerly portrayed as upstanding citizens, these gun toting, law enforcing Caucasians willing to come down on outlaws for the sake of society and safety, are all traits trending downwards. I think the identity of the Rangers/Cowboys is safe because there aren’t any prominent roles played by any caricature and, overall, Texas has always remained proud of their Rangers/Cowboys.
Boston Celtics: The Celtics’ name is derived from the Irish who immigrated to Boston. The name “Celtics” itself isn’t the problem in Boston. Racist comments from fans is the problem. Professional athletes like Torii Hunter input “no trade” clauses to Boston in all of his contracts because of the racist taunts he received inside and outside of Fenway Park. If Celtic management wanted to appear more “inclusive,” there is a minuscule chance at a name change. But in reality? No shot.
Portland Trail Blazers: On the surface, it seems innocent. However, a “trailblazer” was also an individual who, quite literally, blazes a trail through wild country. Well, typically that “wild country” was home to indigenous Indians. Luckily, the conflict between settlers and natives is not typically where the human mind turns to when saying the name Trail Blazers, therefore, the risk remains low.
New Jersey Devils: While identifying with the devil appears more popular than ever, the majority of Americans still frown on devilish behaviors. In my opinion, cheering for a devil is never acceptable, whether it’s on the basketball court, on the frozen pond or in sunny Tempe, Arizona. This nickname will remain.
Vancouver Canucks: I typed 2 words into Google: ‘Is Canuck…’ and the top result was ‘a derogatory word.” That seems like a minor problem with your branding. In Canada, it isn’t derogatory, but apparently if an American uses it, it is (let me reiterate, I’m not agreeing with the interpretations, I’m just informing you of common perceptions). One thing is for sure, when multiple identities exist, it leads to expanding risks.
Nashville Predators: When you say the word “predators,” the image of a panther doesn’t populate. The first thing to come to my mind is that terrible movie called “Predator,” and the 2nd thing to come to mind would be a criminal type of predator. Nashville found bones in 1971 of a Sabre Tooth Tiger and, instead of calling their team the “Sabre Tooth Tigers” (the coolest nickname of all time), they picked the team name Predators. Historic mistake. A mistake so reprehensible that I’m offended.
Carolina Hurricanes: These storms, hurricanes, have the ability to kill thousands of innocent lives. Rooting for a hurricane is like rooting for destruction and death. Does that sound offensive enough to change? I agree. It’s not enough for me either.
Buffalo Bills: Paying homage to the man famous for slaughtering 4,282 Buffalo in the span of 18 months is, arguably, the most confusing team name in sports. William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody had a strong reputation for “taming” Native Americans during the campaigns of the Plains Wars. Buffalo Bill gained fame from his “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” show, which depicted Indians attacking stagecoaches and wagon trains. Certain stereotypes of Indians were prominently displayed as the legacy of Buffalo Bill and can be described as complicated. Luckily, the Bills’ organization has focused more on the “Buffalo” portion of their team name, which is the biggest reason the Bills remain a low risk.
Atlanta Braves: Indian name. It’s that simple. Any ethnic team name nowadays is in big jeopardy, especially when it’s a franchise known for doing “The Chop.”
Cleveland Indians: In 2018, Native American Chief Wahoo made his final appearance, ending his reign as the primary logo for the Cleveland Indians, that had been used since 1932. Once again, the small disassociation from a sketch drawing still leaves a major part of the organization exposed for attacks.
Golden State Warriors: Uh-oh. This team is in the heartland of “know-it-all” Northern California. The Warriors is an obvious Indian reference, no matter how the team attempts to redesign the logo. But, as previously stated, all Indian names are high risk, especially given the changes of many Indian nicknames at the college level.
Chicago Blackhawks: See Indian reasons above.
Kansas City Chiefs: Ditto
Washington Redskins: Duh. o