Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

Native American team names (like Braves) pass poll test


The slippery, sliding scale of what offends and what doesn’t tilted steeply last week.

Among the beneficiaries – unintended to the specific purpose of this poll – were the Braves, their marketing department and anyone who broke into a tomahawk chop when the team used to mount a rally.

A Washington Post poll of Native Americans showed that nine out of 10 took no offense to the nickname of that city’s football team, the Redskins. Further, 70 percent said they did not feel “Redskin” was disrespectful to Indians and 80 percent said they would not be offended if called that by someone outside their heritage.

And, heck, the team name "Braves" is a relative honorific compared with "Redskins."

The findings – debunked by various Native American activists – seemed to bolster an oft-disputed 2004 poll that arrived at essential the same conclusion.

I won’t lie, I was a little surprised. Being somewhere in the middle on the White American Sensitivity Scale, I took it on faith that “Redskin” clearly was a pejorative. Even the dictionary notes that the word is usually offensive. But if those most affected by the term aren’t offended, who am I to feel wrong about employing it?

A Post associate editor, who often took his town’s football team to task for its nickname, faced the same kind of sudden directional change. Wrote Robert McCartney: “It’s unsettling to learn now that I vented all that energy and passion on behalf of such a small fraction of the Native American population.”

While not as volatile elsewhere, the issue does touch every team that still uses some form of Native American imagery.

The Braves occasionally are asked to answer for their name and the chop, but the controversy actually may have peaked way back in 1995 when the World Series pitted the Braves against the Cleveland Indians. The target of teams that have employed such images in the past as Chief Noc-A-Homa and Chief Wahoo was irresistible.

Appropriating someone else’s culture for use as a mascot still doesn’t seem like a terribly high-minded idea.

But, as my Post brother concluded, energies and outrages may be better applied elsewhere.

Turns out, considering the current state of affairs, their name is one of the least offensive things about the Braves.


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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.