TORONTO – Blue Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth won’t be using the word “Indians” when he calls the American League Championship Series between Toronto and Cleveland, and he says he hasn’t uttered the team’s name on the air for nearly 25 years.
Howarth told The Fan 590 on Tuesday that he stopped using team names like Indians and Braves and terms such as tomahawk chop and powwow on the mound after receiving a letter from an aboriginal fan after Toronto defeated Atlanta in the 1992 World Series.
He called it “one of the best fan letters I’ve ever received.”
“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.'”
Howarth wrote the man back, promising he would stop using Indians, Braves and other offensive words.
“I haven’t from that point on,” he said.
Sportsnet’s Jamie Campbell, who hosts “Blue Jays Central,” said he will be following Howarth’s lead.
“Like Jerry Howarth, I will attempt to avoid using the name of Cleveland’s baseball team during our broadcasts,” Campbell tweeted.
The issue was also gaining steam on social media Tuesday, a day after Cleveland beat the Boston Red Sox to advance to the AL championship series against Toronto, with many applauding Howarth and using the hashtag #notyourmascot.
Ontario human rights commissioner Renu Mandhane challenged the Canadian media to stop using the name, saying it perpetuates a negative stereotype.
“If their mascot isn’t said on TV it negatively impacts merchandise sales & brand recognition. Hit ’em where it hurts. #NotYourMascot #BlueJays,” she tweeted.
Bob Rae, the former Ontario premier and federal Liberal leader, tweeted “Cleveland ‘s name and logo for their baseball team is so bad we need to beat them for that reason alone. Offensive stereotype.”
There have been demonstrations at Cleveland’s home opener every season for decades with protesters calling on the team to change its name and abolish the Chief Wahoo logo, an image of a smiling, red-faced character with a feather on his head.
Similar calls have been made for the NFL’s Washington Redskins and CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos to change their names.
The Indians have said they understand there are passionate views about the logo but will keep using it on uniforms and caps.
But Howarth said he has no intention of changing his approach.
“It’s always interesting to see things in black and white but when you get a fan letter from someone who has lived it and breathed it, and said in a very eloquent way ‘It’s just so offensive and we don’t like it’ … it was my way of saying ‘I agree with you and your feelings and that’s how I’m going to honour that and your entire native American culture.'”
The ALCS starts Friday in Cleveland.