OP-ED: Sometimes Change is Good; Sometimes It's Not

By Shelly Saltman
Shelly Saltman
Shelly Saltman

I don’t know about you guys, but I am getting a little tired. I think this ongoing battle for changing sports nicknames is an unnecessary diversion where in today’s world there are so many bigger battles to fight. Where positive energy can be placed elsewhere


I admit I am a traditionalist. However, to me the top sports nicknames signify bravery, power, speed, and even a little whimsy. Many take the names of the area in which they play. For example, the Boston Celtics with its Shamrock logo capitalizes on being part of the Boston Scene. Boston has a proud and long Irish heritage.

Yet, the Oneida Indian Nation headquartered in Upstate New York with an approximate population base of 1,000, has been filing suit throughout the nation to have what they consider offensive and racist team names changed. Consequently, among others, the Washington Redskins are under attack.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am sensitive to slurs thrown at anyone. As a Jew with many friends who are Irish, Black, Polish and Italian, I bristle when I hear names like Kike, Wop, “N” and Mick. However, these are usually said one to one. No matter the delivery, offensive is offensive… no matter how you cut it.

Yet, I do not applaud these so-called “do-gooders” who have nothing better to do, but to create controversy where there is none. Sam Kay, an Ohio State Graduate Student got thousands of baseball fans to sign a petition urging the Cleveland Indians to change the name and get rid of Chief Wahoo,  their long-time mascot.

He claimed, as an Indians fan, he could no longer endure the injustice of a name to him that is offensive. Oh, by the way, he is not a Native American.

The ‘Indians’ name came about after an extensive media survey following the 1914 season. Fans were asked to vote. Keeping in mind the proud tradition of the Erie Indian Nation which inhabited the southern shores of Lake Erie, where the team has its habitat, they selected “Indians”.

In 2002, Sports Illustrated conducted a poll in which 83% of American Indian respondents said that professional teams should not stop using Indian nicknames, mascots, or symbols. I agree! How far can we go under the guise of politically correct? One of the four freedoms that make up the basis of our constitution is “Freedom of Speech, or Expression”.

What has happened to our beautiful society where we need to walk on eggshells, afraid we might say the wrong thing? My old boss Jack Kent Cooke when he owned the Washington Redskins echoed my sentiments when he said, “I admire the Redskins name. I think it stands for bravery, courage, and a stalwart spirit and I see no reason why we shouldn’t continue to use it”.

Today, there is something intrinsically wrong when small groups can go against the will of the majority and hold the majority hostage. Hey, just look at so many schools that have knuckled under. Getting off the sports motif, this dissatisfaction seems to be happening everywhere. Just look at the Air Force Academy that removed “In God we trust” from their logo. I say why?

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Sheldon Arthur "Shelly" Saltman's 50-plus year career in sports includes being the first president of Fox Sports, running the LA office for Mark McCormack, and creator of the bicycle race Tour de California. Saltman was born Aug.17, 1931 in Boston, MA. 
But in the eyes of the general public he is perhaps best known as the man that Evel Knievel tried to beat to death with a baseball bat.
Shelly has created, written, and produced shows for television such as Pro-Fan, Challenge of the NFL Cheerleaders (an early “reality” show), and the movie "Ring of Passion" about the fights between American boxer Joe Louis and German champion Max Schmeling in the years leading up to World War II. Shelly is also the author of various books including EVEL KNIEVEL ON TOUR by Sheldon Saltman with Maury Green (1977 / Dell Publishing) and FEAR NO EVEL: An Insider’s Look At Hollywood as told to Thomas Lyons by Shelly Saltman (January 2007 / We Publish Books).

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