Written by Andrew Cicco.
I’ve been listening to a lot of classic rock lately. It gives me a nice, nostalgic rush. It’s well-invited, too, with everything the world is throwing at us right now. It’s important to hold the familiarity close during times of trouble.
I heard the legendary Bob Dylan cross COOL 104.7 the other day. The song was one with a message still relevant so many years later: “Times, They Are Changin’.”
He’s right, you know. I’m sure you do. He was right 56 years ago, and he’s right today. It happens all around us, whether we notice it or not. Now, we’re seeing the changes happen within Major League Baseball. It was only a matter of time, but things are going to be different.
The Cleveland Indians, one of baseball’s oldest teams, is dropping the name “Indians” out of respect for Indigenous populations. A long-overdue change, yes, but one that still sent shockwaves throughout the MLB.
As we wait for the official change in Cleveland, the vast majority shifted their focus to a new team — a team that happens to be my favorite team. If you’ve been around me or seen me in person even once, you know how deeply I love the Atlanta Braves. As of right now, there are no plans to drop the name “Braves” from the team. I know the associated name of my beloved team isn’t culturally appropriate. I’d be remiss, though, if I didn’t let you know where the name “Braves” actually came from.
Spoiler alert: It wasn’t after Native Americans. It was after politicians.
Let’s travel back to the year 1912. Many years before Babe Ruth would start tattooing baseballs, James Gaffney purchased the team from William H. Russell — a team that was then called the “Rustlers.” Gaffney, a member of Tammany Hall movement (a political organization that originated in New York City), adopted the logo from that of his party. Within Tammany Hall, the executives were known as the “chiefs,” and the operatives were known as the “braves.” Gaffney tied the hierarchy to the team he purchased, naming his “operatives” the Braves, and adopting the “Indian head” logo that was associated with the party. While that’s not exactly politically correct today, and while the logo still directly comes from Native American culture, the Braves are making sure they’re honoring the culture they’re displaying.
It’s also important to note that the Tammany Hall movement derived from Tamanend, a leader of the Lenape tribe. Their main goal was to “delight in all things Native American culture.” Gaffney attempted to weave the culture within baseball, therefore, attempting to weave Native American culture within our culture.
Years later, times have changed and we see ourselves wanting to align with the appropriate representation of Native American culture. Now is as important a time as any to unify, so respecting the Native culture is as important as ever.
Following the large match in Atlanta two years ago that set off the larger powder keg in Cleveland, all eyes focused on the Atlanta Braves. They didn’t buckle under the pressure or try to justify, though. Instead, they wanted to be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Right now, we see the Braves partnering with local Native American tribes, raising awareness and raising money for local tribes. They’re small steps, mind you, but even the largest journeys begin with a single step.