According to David Waldstein and Michael Schmidt of the New York Times, the activist bullies have succeeded in intimidating yet another major league sports team into dropping a Native American reference in its name. I have seen multiple surveys indicating that most Native Americans are perfectly fine with being honored by teams adopting names that reference them. After all, teams seek prestige and love from fans, so it is far from demeaning to be part of a team name. Fans exclaim their support and even love for teams. Has anyone ever claimed that twins are demeaned by the Minnesota baseball club or that Northeasterners are demeaned by the Yankees?
The report is based on three anonymous sources, so at least some skepticism is warranted, but the move fits a pattern of late, with team owners acting like cowards when pressure is exerted on them.
Following years of protests from fans and Native American groups, the Cleveland Indians have decided to change their team name, moving away from a moniker that has long been criticized as racist, three people familiar with the decision said Sunday.
There is no mention of Native Americans or fans who support the team name. Only one side counts.
Cleveland could announce its plans as soon as this week, according to the three people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
The expression “sports hero” has resonance because of the seemingly magical ability of the best of athletes, the ones who make it to the top of a major league sport, to pull off seemingly impossible feats, sometimes rescuing victory from what looked like defeat. Fans gain enduring satisfaction from the accomplishments of their heroes because they identify with the team for which they root. That’s why it has been so mistaken for team-owners to behave like cowards when challenged by activists or by their own players, acting on the basis of racial grievances, and politicizing the playing field.
Pro sports is committing commercial suicide with this cowardice. The economic consequences are most evident in the NFL, which is rapidly losing its hold on fans, television audiences, and advertisers. Alexandra Bruell and Joe Flint report in the Wall Street Journal:
TV networks are feeling the strains of disappointing NFL ratings, as they are forced to restructure deals with advertisers to make up for the smaller audience, and their opportunity to make money off remaining games during the lucrative holiday season narrows.
NBC made the unusual move of lowering the price it charged advertisers that already had committed to run in a Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers game planned for Thanksgiving night after a Covid-19 outbreak on the Ravens forced the game’s postponement to the following Wednesday.
Some networks also have considered letting advertisers pay less for commercials during NFL games and other programming than they originally pledged. (snip)
Meanwhile, a large amount of the remaining commercial time available in games is being given to marketers as compensation for the underperformance so far, leaving little ad time that can be sold in the final quarter of the season[.]
There may be special circumstances — the presidential election and the so-called pandemic — limiting games and audiences, but the decline began earlier, so this year is merely an intensification of a decline that was already in place. The continuing cowardice of management will alienate more fans.
Television networks will have to cut the fees they pay for pro sports, and that, plus the decline in paying fans at the stadia, will have to cut player salaries sooner or later. Does anyone think that will moderate the political demands of aggrieved players, who already feel themselves to be victims?
Meanwhile, in many cities, expensive new stadiums have bondholders who expect to be paid off with revenues that may not materialize. This is not going to end well.