Sociologists Urge MLB Commish to Rid Baseball of Native Nicknames, Logos

The President of the American Sociological Association (ASA), Dr. Michelle Lamont, sent a letter to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred this week, urging him to "use his power to rid Major League Baseball of all Native American team nicknames and other such symbols."

The letter was sent to Manfred on the assumption that he'll be meeting with the Cleveland Indians' ownership soon to discuss Chief Wahoo. Manfred suggested that he and Larry Dolan had agreed to have a conversation after the World Series when he appeared on the Mike & Mike radio show.

In the letter, dated Tuesday, Lamont said she represented her organization of 13,000 members and that she wrote in the spirit of serving the public good.

"Stereotypical representations of Native Americans, and an absence of realistic contemporary representations of Native Americans, are not the only cause of [suffering], but they do play a role," Lamont wrote. "Retaining stereotypical sport nicknames/logos because they represent tradition, or because there is no intent to harm (or that there is an intent to "honor") Native Americans, is unacceptable given the harm to which these representations contribute."

Lamont cited the opinions and studies of academics on the issue, mentioning several reasons why Native American nicknames and logos are harmful. Among them: they reinforce cultural stereotypes, they undermine accurate representations of indigenous peoples and they create a hostile environment for Native Americans.

Stereotypes and hostility were on display in Cleveland throughout the October playoffs. The national media covered the Wahoo controversy in detail, flooding the internet with images of local fans in headdresses and redface, and noting, among other things, that the Indians players wore Chief Wahoo caps (as opposed to caps featuring the primary Block C logo) every game.

We've covered the controversy as well. (And we have for years.) We even opened up a design competition this week for name/logo alternatives, many of which the American Sociological Association would no doubt champion.