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Steve Hummer: Braves' name change is inevitable

Steve Hummer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Baseball

ATLANTA — Remember that 1995 World Series? David Justice's home run? Tom Glavine's unyielding presence on the mound? The Braves most shining moment when Marquis Grissom gloved the last fly ball, overcoming the Cleveland Guardians?

OK, adjust the horizontal hold on your memory ever so slightly. Some will recall the Cleveland team bearing another nickname at the time, not that it really matters. The glory of the moment hereabouts, the everlasting significance of Atlanta's first professional championship in any of the Big Three sports, remains unchanged.

On Friday, Cleveland the franchise made good on its vow to drop the other name it brought to Atlanta back then — "Indians." The announcement came complete with an over-the-top video narrated by Tom Hanks that made Cleveland the city sound like the most courageous, most enlightened address since Renaissance-period Florence.

Get over yourself, Cleveland. All you did was change the letterhead on your baseball team. You're still in the Rust Belt and still far back of the White Sox.

At the start of that '95 World Series between Braves and Indians, a handful of protesters gathered outside the now long-leveled Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to decry the appropriation of Native American names and images for the amusement of the masses. They called it a World Series of Racism. The fans streamed by them with scarcely a notice, ready to tomahawk chop on command. The games went on. They always do.

Here it is 26 years later, and one of the two teams targeted by the protest eventually has gotten around to dropping the offensive nickname. Granted, the name Cleveland replaced it with — Guardians — seems like a shotgun marriage between baseball and Marvel Comics. But at least it doesn't caricaturize a race of people. Who's going to get mad at Guardians, school crossing guards?

 

As for the Braves, they seem only slightly closer to winning another World Series then they are to a name change. From the Braves' corporate tribal council came a defiant statement to season ticket holders just last year: "We will always be the Atlanta Braves."

But gird yourself, all those who hold the memory of Chief Noc-A-Homa dear, the day will come. There will not always be the Atlanta Braves.

As one team after another bends to the very rational idea that team nicknames have no need to be even microscopically controversial, a certain inevitability gains speed. The dominoes do fall.

As it has come to the Washington Football Team and the Cleveland Guardians, so will change come to Seminoles in Tallahassee, Blackhawks in Chicago, Chiefs in Kansas City and Braves in Atlanta.

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