Take Your Team Names Off Our Necks!

Like many who were once woefully unwoke, I loved Major League Baseball as a kid. Because I had not yet been brought to consciousness about privilege, diversity, equity, inclusion, and the general universal imperative to redress all moral wrongs ever committed, I didn’t bat an eyelash then at the horribly bigoted names of the teams I followed. 

Then I got that new-time quasi-religion and realized how much had to change.

What splendid and welcome news, then, that the Cleveland baseball team will become the Guardians in the coming 2022 season. The new name will make the baseball fan feel extra-protected during the high-risk activity of sitting in the stands and watching others throw and catch a ball. Feeling safe is, of course, the number one priority in our dangerous times, when deadly threats lurk around every corner

Other professional sports teams have made similarly praiseworthy moves in recent months. The Washington Football Team adopted its current aesthetically scintillating name after realizing how much racist damage was being done to innocent bystanders by its old name. (That former name is so awful I won’t write it here, naturally, as rigorous science has definitively proven how harmful it is to anyone who hears it). 

Given that surveys suggest that just under 1-in-10 Native Americans were offended by the Washington team’s old name, and the other nine or so were almost certainly just too crushed by the ideological power of structural racism to even realize that they, too, were being sapped of their life force by it, this was a great move for progress, safety, and all-around inclusive wonderfulness.

The momentum is swinging! Let us take advantage of the new era to make more changes to move major league baseball into the equity-drenched utopia toward which peaceful activists in the streets are nonviolently moving our society.

Here are a few more MLB team names that should be on everybody’s short list for immediate alteration:

Los Angeles Angels: Is it really appropriate to name a team after supernatural beings (associated in the West, one might add, with all sorts of icky things like Manifest Destiny, Christmas, and objective truth!)—beings whose very existence is doubted by a growing number of Americans who are confidently shedding benighted, Iron Age beliefs in favor of modern intellectual independence and significantly higher rates of psychological illness

The Los Angeles Freethinking Secular Egalitarians would be a great substitute. Or better still, why not celebrate one of our contemporary supernaturally saintly figures from the social justice pantheon? The Los Angeles Big Floyds or Big Mikes, the endearing nicknames respectively of George Floyd and Michael Brown, would make a strong statement about the team’s commitment to defunding police.  

Language experts will recognize that the name of the city itself contains the offensive name of the heavenly entities (though it is in Spanish, a marginalized language and so this partially corrects for the offense). So perhaps that will have to be changed too. Why not Los Agnósticos, California? Or, in the interest of fairness, since it’s been named for those colonialist celestial entities for so many years, maybe now it’s time to literally give the devil his due and go with Los Diablos, California.

San Francisco Giants: Hurtful to those of limited stature. The San Francisco Vertically Challenged Folk would make a powerful contribution toward affirmatively recognizing those systemically oppressed in a society that immorally values height.

Chicago White Sox: This is an obvious one. Chicago Black Lives Matter Sox.

San Diego Padres: Patriarchal and hetero-phallically macho, in addition to religiously exclusive. San Diego Madres would help empower the oppressed sex, though it unfortunately does so only through the social role they have been forced to occupy by the repressive institution that is the bourgeois family. And it’s too binary (we all know it’s social constructions all the way down here, right?). What about the San Diego People with Uteruses Who Menstruate and Also Those Who Don’t Menstruate or Have a Uterus Yet Who Nonetheless Identify as Women and Therefore Must Be So Considered? It’s perhaps a little clunky, but what’s that compared to the reparative cultural work it would do?

Oakland Athletics: This discriminates against the weak and ungifted at sport. Oakland Differently Abled Baseball Players. Or perhaps Oakland Bookworms, just to remind kids that being athletic isn’t everything.

Kansas City Royals: The days of tyrannical monarchs eating the grain and drinking the blood of the poor are long over! The Kansas City Revolutionary Proletariat would strike a blow against hierarchy and give a welcome boost to the rising class in our hopefully almost post-capitalist world.

Baseball has no monopoly on racist, sexist, homophobic, and otherwise fascistic team names. Other sports will need updating as well. 

In the NFL, let’s start with the New England Patriots. The name instantly conjures violent images of that awful jingoist Mel Gibson movie and scary face-painted, horned Capitol insurrectionists. The New England Indigenous Victims of Colonialist Genocide (or INVICOGs, for short) would be a profoundly worshipful acknowledgement of those who inhabited the land before they were violently dispossessed. New England, by the way, is just as white supremacist as England, and so the whole region should mull over the injustice of retaining such a microaggression as a name. New Algonquian, or ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯ if we take the morally appropriate step of altogether avoiding the alphabet of the colonial oppressors, would be a nice option.

One cannot but notice in the NFL how many of the teams’ emblems look terribly, frighteningly violent. Arizona’s Cardinal has a positively murderous look that makes my heart rate increase dangerously every time I see it. Chicago’s Bear appears to be ravenously hungry, and some Chicago football fans have likely been threatened by famished bears at least once on a camping trip, or maybe while watching a video or reading a novel about camping, so this is a probable trigger. Eagles, Seahawks, Ravens, and Broncos are likewise all quite aggressive and mean-looking. Let’s try friendlier, less carnivorous animal emblems, such as the Philadelphia Koalas, Seattle Chipmunks, and Baltimore Gerbils. Think of how much this might increase the NFL fan base among vegans, misandrists, and those suffering from PTSD caused by unfortunate interactions with overactive and nippy therapy puppies!

In the NBA, things are moderately more socially just, but there is still work to be done. The Golden State Warriors will of course have to go, as the name is a celebration of the worst human activity imaginable, with the possible exception of the utterance or thought of the racial epithet with such devastatingly destructive power that I will not even tell you what letter it starts with because to do that would be to manipulatively force you to say it inside your head, which ought to be an internationally recognized hate crime. Let’s go with the Golden State Loving Peace Vigil Attendees.

The Portland Trail Blazers gives too much emphasis to the white supremacist, male competitive desire to be in the lead, an unhealthful message for all young people, especially those who never win at anything. How many possible future Portland NBA team players are thwarted in their desire to play in the NBA by the hurtful message that they are not very good at basketball? (Research has shown conclusively such failure cannot be due to any purported lack of ability but is always about stereotypical threats and other such evils). How about the Portland Followers? Actually, that’s no good, as it still assumes the existence of leaders who are being followed. Middle of the Packers? Cheerful Underachievers? Or perhaps the city of Portland could just change its name to Lake Wobegon and the team might then become the We’re All Above Averagers.

Finally, in fairness and equity, we must not leave out women’s teams. Even though they are already pursuing equity in such a substantial way through the genitalia of their players, the social justice cause must be eternally active and vigilant!

The WNBA’s New York Liberty celebrates an individualist value. Surely New York Equality, New York Inclusive Excellence, or New York Tolerance would be more appropriately collectivist and enlightened.

The Indiana Fever could panic fans in the COVID era, as they might see the name as an announcement that the players are contagious or unvaccinated. The Indiana Masked, Vaccinated, and Boostered gives the right message during a pandemic.

And Seattle Storm? Most assuredly not, as this could endanger the mental health of those grievously worried about climate change, which approaches 100 percent of the WNBA fan base. Try Seattle Greenhouse Gas Tax Collectors instead!

C’mon, sports fans! With concentrated effort, we can bring sports into line with the cultural imperative never to hurt anyone’s feelings anywhere, anytime. More great news came in recently from Quidditch Leagues (which of course we all follow avidly) declaring that they will be changing the name of their sport to distance themselves from the hateful J. K. Rowling, who refuses to recognize the inherent right of trans-rapists to be properly gender-identified. Rumor has it that among the new vibrantly emancipatory names the former Quidditchers are considering are Team Anti-TERF, Queeritch, and Two-Spirit Broomstick Hoopball

Of course, all these advances notwithstanding, the work has only just begun. Ultimately the whole hierarchical and immoral athletic business of sorting winners from losers must be rethought. Mandatory ties in all contests are the glorious solution toward which we should all be striving. 

But baby steps first! Let’s go, Seattle Chipmunks!

About Alexander Riley

Alexander Riley is a professor of sociology at Bucknell University and a senior fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization.

Photo: Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

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