Professional Sports and Cultural Appropriation


A Native American citizen and a Cleveland Indian fan stand face to face.

Kelly Yoshimura, Editor-in-Chief


Cleveland Indian fans at Progressive Fiel

Different races and cultures have long been disrespected and misrepresented in American sports. Even now you have the Cleveland Indians, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Washington Redskins, teams that outright use a slur against Native Americans.

Specifically, Native Americans have been the target of disrespect and cultural appropriation in American sports.

For example, the Washington Redskins, an NFL team that has existed since 1932 has used the term Redskins for their team since its formation. The National Congress of American Indians has argued the name demeans the culture, traditions, and stereotypes of Native Americans.

The Washington Post, since then have released a statement from team owner Dave Snyder in 2013, saying the name represents the history with the team and the fans. The team name Redskins, was chosen to honor Native Americans such as the original coach and four players who were Native American.

The main problem that seemed to arise with Native American team names was the representation they received from the fans of each team.

“These sports teams that claim respect and honor for Native American tribes and people, may have originally been their intention, but now fans are starting to completely disrespect and make fun of, while still claiming their customs as their own,” says a Native American alumni from Dana.

The Kansas City Chiefs, another NFL team that is known to have loud and dedicated fans, has been critiqued for their “dedication”, as cultural appropriation.

A Chief’s fan at Arrowhead Stadium.

Many fans show up with feather hats, tribal face paint, and jewelry representative of the cultures and traditions of Native Americans.

In Native American culture, earning feather hats, also known as warbonnets, are considered to be a huge honor, and people who wear the fake feather headdresses without knowing the meaning or the effort that must be put in to receive it, insult and belittle Native Americans.

One team who has decided that the racism of their logo has gone long enough without being removed is the Cleveland Indians, an MLB team.

After a lengthy dispute over their team mascot, Chief Wahoo, the team has decided to take down their logo in the 2018 season, taking the offensive mascot off of jerseys, hats, and media.

Since 1947, one rendition or another had been used to represent the team, according to

One of the reasons that sports teams aren’t taking much action to change is because of the time and money that goes into re-branding, as well as the likely income fall as fans refuse to buy merchandise in the name of political correctness.

Many argue that changing logos and re-branding isn’t necessary for professional teams. Claiming it is apart of sports history, and changing any form of that is altering their history. People also state that sensitivity to these issues is pointless, and offensive logos and team names are just that, team names and logos.

“Recently, people have been so sensitive about everything that goes on, these team names are just names, no one means any disrespect when they dress up, the fans are just showing support for their fans,” argues another Dana student who defends these sports teams.

But, despite these arguments, the ones who make them are typically not Native American, nor follow their customs and traditions, meaning they don’t have the option to make a call on whether or not these things should be changed.

From fans dressing up in fake headdresses to stereotypes and slurs becoming the norm of modern day sports, Native Americans have been culturally appropriated, belittled, and alienated in American sports.