On October 16, the Mets held a press conference and made it official, their new triple A farm club in Syracuse would jettison its traditional nickname, the “Chiefs,” and would morph into the Syracuse Mets for the 2019 season. This was no great surprise, as the cat had been let out of the bag back on January 3, when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held his State of the State address. In that speech, with Jeff Wilpon in the audience, Cuomo stated that the Syracuse franchise would change its name to Mets.
Why did the Governor make this announcement back in January? If it was a simple rebranding, you would expect team officials to declare it, not a governor. You would think there would be more important items to be presented in a State of the State address than the nickname of a minor league team. The manner of this announcement sure looks like a nod toward political correctness.
The Governors’ announcement of the name change smacks of a purely political move, with the Governor leading the charge for political correctness to shore up his base. When the Binghamton Mets became the Rumble Ponies in 2016, it was not the Governor that made the announcement, so why should he interject himself into this issue this time? Few minor league teams bear the nickname of the parent club. For example, there was no push to rename the Las Vegas 51’s the Las Vegas Mets when the Mets’ management controlled that club.
The Syracuse team has been known as the Chiefs for a long time, since 1934, with a tweak to “Sky Chiefs” from 1997 to 2006. It might be expected that such a well established brand would continue on. Syracuse sits right in the heart of what was once the lands of the Iroquois Confederation, and the original logo of the Chiefs tied into that relationship.
Therein lies the rub. There has been a sort of movement in baseball, and other sports, to eliminate any team names or mascots that have any association with the indigenous tribes of North America. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has been part of this movement. The Cleveland Indians are scrapping their long time logo Chief Wahoo, featuring a grinning warrior, for next season. According to the New York Times, that move was made due to pressure from Manfred.
In 1986 Atlanta dropped its mascot Chief Noc-A-Homa. It is certainly possible these symbols might offend some people. But the Syracuse Chiefs’ logo has not featured an actual tribal Chief since 1996, it has depicted some form of a locomotive since then.
One might think that the indigenous tribe members are behind the movement to erase tradition, but that is not the case. In 2016 the Washington Post conducted a poll, and the results were that only “5% of Native Americans are upset with depictions of Indians on sports teams.” It would seem that the victim politics crowd is the group that is upset, not the actual indigenous people.
It may well be that the Wilpons did not particularly care what the name of the farm team is, they just saw an opportunity to get on the good side of the Commissioner and the Governor by taking the politically correct approach.
The term political correctness can be traced back to the 1920s Soviet Union and the need of the Communist party to enforce orthodoxy in thinking. A far more pro-freedom position is that espoused by the late Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, who said “I always tried to be correct, not politically correct.”