Braves name change
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Washington football team considering name change; are MLB teams next?

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Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the NFL’s Washington team announced on Friday that the organization “will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name.” On Thursday, ESPN reported that FedEx — which owns the naming rights to Washington’s stadium — formally requested a name change, as it is a slur. The name has been the subject of controversy dating as far back as the 1960’s, but picked up steam in more recent years. FedEx’s request, however, is what might ultimately get the team to change its name.

The NFL isn’t the only sports league with name controversies. The Indians and Braves have also been embroiled in controversy. While Indians isn’t in and of itself offensive, its logo and mascots have been deemed offensive. As you can see on SportsLogos.net, the Indians logo gradually became more and more of a caricature of Native Americans. The caricature ultimately decided upon in 1946 became the Indians logo that became widely used well into the 2000’s. In recent years, Major League Baseball instructed the Indians to phase out Chief Wahoo. Might, at some point, the Indians simply change their name to turn the page on the controversy entirely?

Similarly, the Braves’ went through several racist interations of their logo, beginning with a screaming Indian before ultimately settling on an illustrated tomahawk. They also had a mascot from 1966-85 called Chief Noc-A-Homa. The Braves gave him a companion mascot, Princess Win-A-Lotta, in 1983 but she was short-lived. Chief Noc-A-Homa was phased out after 1986 but not due to a heightened sensitivity towards racism, but because the Braves and the man who portrayed the mascot disagreed over pay and missed dates.

In 1991, Braves fans adopted the “Tomahawk Chop,” which had been done by fans of Florida State University and, later, by the Kansas City Chiefs. The team leaned into it, selling and oftentimes giving away foam tomahawks. The stadium organist played the “Tomahawk Song” as fans did the “Tomahawk Chop.” Like the Indians, the Braves have been in and out of controversy over the past few decades.

The Texas Rangers were also briefly under scrutiny. Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune correctly noted last month that the team’s name references the real-life Texas Rangers, a law enforcement agency based in Austin that has a history of racist and brutal policing. In the context of the current time, in which protests against police brutality are still ongoing and the league has pledged a commitment towards social justice, it makes sense to consider the Rangers along with the Indians and Braves.

As we have seen throughout the years, though, it takes a lot of effort to get these teams to consider making the smallest of changes towards progress. For the Braves, Indians, and Rangers to change their iconography and names, they would likely also need a big sponsor to light the fire.

While the moral argument against using these names and images should be strong on its own, the Indians, Braves, and Rangers should at least be swayed by the business angle. We’ll ignore the sponsors potentially dropping out without a change, because that goes without saying. The people who are vehemently in favor of the name and images constitute a very vocal minority. Most people either don’t care that much or want the change. With a change in name and imagery, the teams have a new opportunity to sell merchandise — hats, jerseys, you name it. They could hold special events, like an official unveiling, that entice people to spend money and buy tickets. And they might even bring some fans back into the fold who were put off by the bigotry.

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Update (8:33 PM ET): Well, hey, whaddaya know?

Mets’ Marcus Stroman opts out of season over virus concerns

Marcus Stroman torn calf
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NEW YORK — Marcus Stroman‘s recovery from a torn left calf muscle was almost complete, and he was in line to possibly make his season debut for the New York Mets next week against the Miami Marlins.

But the idea of traveling to one of the country’s coronavirus hot spots played a factor in Stroman’s decision Monday to opt out of the 2020 season.

“Obviously, you see the Cardinals, the Marlins, you see spikes everywhere in the country, you see protocols not being handled properly from citizens everywhere,” Stroman said during a Zoom call. “You see us going to Florida soon. That was a big discussion I had with my family. Going to see the Marlins soon, that’s something I don’t want to be in that situation.”

Stroman, scheduled to become a free agent after the season, is the second Mets player to opt out this month. Designated hitter Yoenis Cespedes left the team Aug. 2.

Stroman said he had daily conversations with his family about what to do. His grandmother and uncle have compromised immune systems and are around his mother on a regular basis.

“This was a decision I had to kind of take myself out of it and look out for the best interests of my family,” Stroman said.

His decision came four days after he threw 85 pitches in his second simulated game and a day before he was scheduled to throw another simulated game.

On Sunday, manager Luis Rojas expressed hope it would be the last simulated game for Stroman, who was injured during the Mets’ summer workouts. New York’s next road trip is to begin Friday at Philadelphia and conclude with a four-game set at Miami from Aug. 17-20.

Rojas said he understood Stroman’s decision but was surprised.

“He wanted to do another one just to play it safe and see how he felt coming out of it and then come join us,” Rojas said Monday. “But, once again, we fully support him.”

Stroman will go on the restricted list, allowing the Mets to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

He will now head into free agency – he reached the six years of service time needed July 30 while on the injured list – without throwing a pitch this season. At 29, he’s expected to be one of the most sought-after starters on the open market.

He was due to make $4.4 million – the prorated portion of the one-year, $12 million deal he signed in January – and will give up the remaining total, a little more than $3.25 million, unless he has a precondition.

Stroman’s exit further weakens a rotation that looked like one of the best before the pandemic shutdown in March. While two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom has been impressive in four starts, Noah Syndergaard is out for the season after Tommy John surgery and Michael Wacha went on the injured list Sunday with shoulder inflammation.

With Stroman out, rookie left-hander David Peterson, who is 2-1 with a 3.78 ERA in his first three big league starts, is locked into a rotation spot. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen said relievers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman are possibilities to fill the fifth spot.

Stroman was 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA in 11 starts last season for the Mets, who acquired him in July 2019 for two pitching prospects. He grew up on Long Island about 50 miles from Citi Field.

“I remember coming over here and us going on that little win streak last year and the environment at Citi Field,” he said. “It felt like playoff games that I was pitching in when I came over at the trade deadline.”