The Choice is Ours…

In Blog, Hustle Podcast by Eric ByrnesLeave a Comment

Recently, the Cleveland Indians announced that they would be changing their nickname because it may be offensive to some people… 

This isn’t something new; team logos and names deemed potentially “offensive” have often been retired at various points throughout time. As of late, there undoubtedly has been a recent surge of name changes which most likely directly correlate to the sensitive times of our current environment… 

Without judgment, one way or another, I want to explore this issue and try to figure out what exactly are we trying to accomplish with the name changes, and most importantly, are we as a society better off because of them? 

Let’s dive in. 🏊 

First and foremost, before we even think of deciding if a certain University or professional sports team’s mascot is offensive or not, we need to answer a relative but completely different and fundamental question… 

In general, is being a school or team’s nickname offensive? 

I obviously can’t answer for you but as a kid who grew up LOVING sports, I have always looked at a nickname as a badge of honor. In my world, a team’s name has always represented a powerful moniker that both team members and fans alike are able to honor and draw strength from. 

It’s been well documented that my first vivid memory in life was “The Catch.” The 49ers were my everything and I distinctly remember asking about why the San Francisco based football team was called the 49ers… My Dad gave me the long versioned story of the gold rush of 1849 and how along with many others, my great great grandfather pioneered the trails westward in a covered wagon, and on foot, in search of the golden nuggets of prosperity and a place to settle… These “49ers” represented a relentless, hard charging can’t stop won’t stop spirit that literally made the western United States what it is today…

That same great great grandfather was an Irish immigrant who came to the US to escape British tyranny and the Irish Famine… The boat he traveled on was considered a “Coffin Boat,” where nearly half who got on the overcrowded and disease infested vessel never arrived.  

As the story goes, upon entry into the US my Great Great Grandfather immediately was instructed to change his name from O’Byrne to Byrnes in an attempt to “Americanize” our name. The Irish were seen as poor and unskilled refugees who traveled in HUGE droves and always seemed to have a bit of a reckless twinkle in their eye… The Irish were also Catholics which created an entire new shit storm with the predominantly Protestant American population… Not shockingly, the discrimination against the Irish was rampant and widespread…

Many would say the Irish fought their way into American society with a relentless work ethic and overwhelming strength in numbers that showed up in record numbers at the ballot box when Election Day rolled around. 

As a kid, my favorite school was Notre Dame for a few different reasons… 

The first being that Notre Dame was the one college football team I was guaranteed to be able to watch play every Saturday during the fall… Yet the main reason for being an ND fan was because I LOVED and identified myself with Notre Dame’s nickname and mascot.

“The Fighting Irish” represented the heart of the Irish immigrants I had heard stories about and just the site of the little leprechaun with his fist up not only made me happy, but it actually made me proud.

I can’t speak for Native American Indians and I do not know what the many variations of nicknames mean to them… So instead of pretending to know what I don’t know, let’s take a minute to focus on what we do know… 

I do know that Native Americans inhabited this country nearly 40,000 years before Europeans arrived and currently have a population of around 2 million people belonging to about 500 different tribes… 

I do know that Native Americans fought on both sides of the Revolutionary War with their main objective being protecting their land that was aggressively encroached upon by European settlers…

I do know that Native Americans were victims of several horrific crimes committed by both rogue settlers and military forces… Make no mistake about it though, Native Americans were heavily trained in warfare and more than held their own in a lot of instances including decisive victories against both the British and US Army on several different occasions… 

I do know that regardless if they are associated with a school or team nickname, Native Americans need to be celebrated for being a group of people that have relentlessly survived and thrived in North America for thousands of years… Native Americans’ embracement of strong family bonds and a devout relationship with nature are both qualities that deserve to be championed… 

I do know that I don’t know what the right answer is and I am actually writing this to encourage more discussion… 

Lastly, I do know that perspective in life means absolutely everything and how we view the world depends solely on which lens we decide to look through… In this hypersensitive day and age, no matter how politically correct we try to be there will always be people who make the choice to be offended… Yet this isn’t new, as a matter of fact Marcus Aurelius would tell you that it most definitely goes back at least 2000 years, when our dude Marco dropped this beautiful and ever so relevant GEM: 

“Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed… Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.” 

Ultimately, the choice is ours. 🤔

-EB

 

P.S. Have you hopped on a Team GoHard Foot Reflexology Board yet?