The Toronto Blue Jays begin their American League Championship Series this weekend against a team with no name. At least, not one that you'll hear mentioned by Jays play-by-play commentator Jerry Howarth, who refuses to refer to Cleveland's ball club as the Indians.
On Tuesday, Howarth told The Fan 590 that he stopped using Indians as well as Braves - Atlanta's moniker - and terms like tomahawk chop during part of broadcasts. He made that decision almost 25 years ago when he was moved by a fan letter. After covering Toronto's World Series win over Atlanta in 1992, Howarth received feedback from a fan that made him rethink the appropriation of indigenous peoples into sporting culture.
“He said, ‘Jerry, I appreciate your work but in the World Series, it was so offensive to have the tomahawk chop and to have people talk about the powwows on the mound and then the Cleveland Indians logo and the Washington Redskins.’ He just wrote it in such a loving, kind way. He said ‘I would really appreciate it if you would think about what you say with those teams.’ "
From that day on, Howarth boycotted those words. "[I]t was my way of saying ‘I agree with you and your feelings and that’s how I’m going to honour that and your entire Native American culture.“’
And he hopes the unnamed fan's message gets across to others who love the sport. Right now, there is much heated debate over Big 4 sports teams with names like Redskins and logos like Cleveland's Chief Wahoo. Howarth thinks fans need to listen to people who have "lived...and breathed" racial prejudice before rallying around divisive team names.
So far, a number of fans have rallied to the cause. And Jamie Campbell - host of Sportsnet's Blue Jays Central - is following Howarth's lead.
But fans of the franchise will argue that Cleveland's nickname is part of team history. But as one person pointed out on Twitter, the club has a bunch of other nicknames that are older than 'Indians.'
So if Cleveland did decide to change the team's moniker, which throwback name would you like to see them revive?
Banner image: Roy Luck / Flickr.com