Chumash leaders are asking the North County Indians — a local, semi-pro baseball team — to rename the team and to ditch its stereotypical logo of a grinning, wide-eyed, red-faced Native American.
Some posters on Facebook are also asking the team, which is now based in Templeton, to change the name entirely.
We urge the team to oblige.
We fully recognize that the name has been around a long time; according to one team official, the Indians are the oldest semi-pro baseball franchise in the state.
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But sensibilities have changed. When the mascot was chosen more than 40 years ago — at that time, the team was based in Santa Maria — it was common practice to use names such as “Indians,” “Braves,” and “Redskins.”
Since then, relying on cringe-worthy caricatures to promote athletic teams is a practice that has been steadily declining, though a few pro teams stubbornly cling to it. As Tribune reporter Bob Cuddy pointed out, the North County Indians’ logo is, in fact, based on the Cleveland Indians’ mascot, Chief Wahoo.
But just because the pros do it, doesn’t make it right. Spectator sports should unite fans, and mascots based on racial stereotypes can instead make them feel uncomfortable and excluded.
Who needs that? Baseball games should be a welcome break from the stresses and strains of day-to-day life — not a place to be confronted with images dating back to the days of overt racial prejudice.
Now that the Santa Maria Indians have relocated to Templeton, this is an excellent time to pick a new name and a new mascot.
Why not sponsor a contest? That could generate some excitement for the team and maybe gain some new fans in the process. And isn’t that what the great game of baseball is all about?