Brendan’s Bits: Renaming D.C. football and Cleveland baseball

The current racial climate in the United States has led to a reckoning day for symbols of racism and oppression all across the country. As statues of Confederate generals are toppled across the south and Christoper Columbus monuments are similarly destroyed, it was only a matter of time before the sports worlds’ transgressions were taken to task.

Enter the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians.

Over the fourth of July weekend ESPN and other sources reported that Washington is going to review the name of the oft-criticized franchise, something that has consistently been a nonstarter for owner Dan Snyder. The team name is blatantly racist though, an inappropriate nickname that was put in place by an overt bigot in George Preston Marshall (his statue is gone from RFK Stadium now, too). Snyder loves the team he mismanages too much to have ever reconsidered its name, but the time has come for him, the franchise and the NFL as a whole to move on from it.

His coach is on board, too, with Ron Rivera saying he’d love for it to be done by the start of the season.

Then there are the Cleveland Indians, a team with a less blatantly racist name but one that doesn’t really fit, either. “The Tribe” has done a better job in recent years of distancing itself from divisive imagery, most notably by permanently shelving its Chief Wahoo logo. That was a positive step, but naming a baseball team after a large group of people, who have numerous identities and heritages that are all melded into one with the antiquated name, is no longer acceptable.

This isn’t about whitewashing anything or erasing history; it’s just time to move on. Regardless of who likes it or doesn’t, the changes are happening. You don’t come out and say you’re reviewing something like the name of a team, only to come back and say “You know what, we’re good.” The toothpaste is out of the tube, so to speak.

So it’s time to rename these franchises. Plenty of ideas have been floated out for years, some better than others, and it’s time to put the best of the best on the table. It’s a little tougher to pick a good one for D.C., while Cleveland has one choice starting it right in the face.

Washington D.C. football

1. Washington Pigskins

The Washington Footballs football team? Hear me out. You’re still able to refer to the team as the ‘Skins like you can now and there’s no insulting connotation. It’s a connection to the storied history of the franchise, too, through the “Pig” part of the name. Hogs are pigs, and The Hogs were the legendary offensive linemen for Washington in the 1980’s. Plus, the Hogettes were a thing. You’re probably not putting a football on the side of your helmet as a logo, so any kind of circle with “D.C.” in it is your easiest option there. The idea seems hokey, but the nod to history and ability to keep the fans’ nickname is a nice touch.

2. Washington Sentinels

Washington D.C.’s football history isn’t complete without the story of Shane Falco, the former Ohio State quarterback who led the Washington Sentinels during the strike year and returned to help them beat Dallas after being replaced by the picket line-crossing Eddie Martel.

OK, sure, that’s the plot of The Replacements, but it’s still a great story. It’s hardly a cornerstone of American cinema, but it’s a fun nod to football media history, and it meshes with Washington D.C. since it’s a military/government word. As a fan of Footsteps Falco, I need to get this name on the list.

3. Washington Red Tails

The famed Tuskegee Arimen were nicknamed the Red Tails because of the paint job on their planes. Their story is undeniably awesome, and if you’re looking to go in the complete opposite direction of the name you have now, honoring an all-black World War II squadron makes perfect sense. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins is a proponent of the name, too. Personally, I don’t love the name and it has no connection to D.C. unless you want to make the aforementioned military connection (Tuskegee is about 660 miles from Washington D.C.), but the story is obviously noble and worth remembering.

It’s hard to come up with a good name for the franchise. What is a must, though, is avoiding something agonizingly generic like “RedHawks” or something of that ilk. Come up with something creative, come up with something unique. It took a long time (and a lot of money) to finally convince Snyder that he needs to change the franchise’s name. Now he needs to get it right.

Cleveland baseball

1. Cleveland Spiders

Boom, we’re done here. This is one of the easiest decisions imaginable. The Cleveland Spiders were a professional team once upon a time, existing from 1889-1899 (the same franchise was named the Blues from 1887-1888). They were not particularly good, which is a demerit against this choice, but otherwise it’s a perfect fit.

For one, it’s unique. There are no other “Spiders” in American professional sports, and the only other “Spiders” in the country period are the Richmond Spiders of the NCAA’s A-10 Conference. Secondly, there are endless directions you can take with the team’s branding and logos, with varying levels of coolness and creepiness with each one. A Twitter user aggregated a few mock-ups over the holiday weekend, and they are a great selling point for this nickname:

And last of all, it’s a great nod to baseball history. Baseball is a sport built on history and tradition and “respecting the game,” which is generally bunk but plays into this rebrand perfectly. The opportunity to do something different and creative fell right into Cleveland’s lap, and it needs to run with the chance.