‘For the rest of my career I will not say ‘Indian’ or ‘Brave’ and if I was in the NFL I would not say ‘Redskins’
The Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians are set to square off on Friday in the ALCS to battle for a World Series bid, and the matchup may prove an interesting one for Blue Jays announcer Jerry Howarth, who steadfastly refuses to refer to the opposing team as “Indians.”
The match-up has only been decided since Cleveland’s win on Monday, but Howarth’s policy has been in place much longer. The announcer, who’s called Blue Jays games since 1981, hasn’t used Native American teams names, slogans, or lingo in his play-calling since 1992.
His decision to stop using the phrases and names was made in response to a letter he received from a First Nation (indigenous Canadian) member following the ’92 World Series which pitted the Toronto Blue Jays against the Atlanta Braves.
“He said, ‘Jerry, I appreciate your work, but in the World Series, it was so offensive to have the tomahawk chop and to have people talk about the ‘powwows on the mound’ and then the Cleveland Indians logo and the Washington Redskins. He just wrote it in such a loving, kind way. He said, ‘I would really appreciate it if you would think about what you say with those teams.’”
He concluded, “For the rest of my career I will not say ‘Indian’ or ‘Brave’ and if I was in the NFL I would not say ‘Redskins.’”
Because Howarth didn’t issue a formal declaration on the decision in 1992 or anytime since, his policy hasn’t been well-known, despite the increasing public pressure mounting against teams with names such as the Redskins, Braves, Indians, and Blackhawks.
The Cleveland team officially continues to move away from the objectionable aspects of its identity, such as Chief Wahoo, a gross caricature of a Native American, but has shown little motivation in abandoning the team name, the Indians. In spite of the official moves fans continue to rally around the “vintage” respresentation.
As attention turns toward the remaining two American League teams, Howarth’s quiet refusal to say the Indians name could do more to further discussion of the issue than we’ve seen in quite some time.