In 2004, Richmond, Virginia was host to the national denominational meetings of the Presbyterian Church USA, the Pentecostal Church International, and the American Baptist Churches USA. In 2012, the United Methodist Church was to hold its General Conference in the same city. It's not going to happen. The Methodists aren't going to Richmond.Why? Because Richmond has a minor-league baseball team called the "Braves." When this group met in Cleveland (home to another team with a Native American mascot), the Methodists initiated a resolution denouncing this sort of thing. Their resolution included these words:
"We are sad for the great United Methodists in Virginia who were excited about hosting the General Conference but are pleased to take a strong stance against teams with offensive names. However well intended, sports teams named after Native Americans demean the heritage of native peoples. They perpetuate unhealthy and unfair stereotypes."In 2004, delegates met in Pittsburgh and in 2008, they will gather in Fort Worth, Texas.
Mohler's post points us to an online article by Mark Galli of Christianity Today, who responds with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek:
How insensitive of Richmond to allow its city to be associated with a privately owned team that denigrates Native Americans as noble, strong, and courageous. It didn't seem to faze anyone that this convention [in 2004] was being held in held in Pittsburgh, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a name that romanticizes raping, pillaging, robbery, and murder.
Fortunately, the Methodists can put all those horrific and embarrassing incidents behind them. In 2008 they're meeting in Fort Worth, Texas.
Uh, never mind. I guess the Methodists haven't heard of the local arena football team, the Ft. Worth Cavalry, a team name that glorifies militarism and violence TOWARD NATIVE AMERICANS.
Then again, momentous social change doesn't happen in a quadrennium or two. Surely by 2012, they will have corrected the Methodist ship. Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. They've chosen innocuous Tampa Bay, Florida.
Ooops. Forgot about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Pirates (again!), who—at the risk of repeating myself—glorify rape, pillaging, thievery, and murder. Oh, and the 16th and 17th century's No. 1 drug abuse problem, alcoholism.
(What is it with Methodists and pirates?)
Galli goes on to explore deeper thoughts:
Here's a question I want to ask: "Why are people so upset over something that does not seem to upset the allegedly insulted people group?"
At any rate, as the chair of the committee who put a nix on Richmond said, "We are sad for the United Methodists in Virginia who were excited about hosting the General Conference, but are pleased to take a strong stand against sports teams with offensive names."
The reason the Methodists have taken this courageous stand is because they drop about $20 million every four years at these General Conferences. They don't want to contribute to the economy of a city that lets privately owned sports teams with offensive names operate in its boundaries.
Given that logic, I'm surprised that Methodists have continued to LIVE IN cities that have sports teams with offensive names. By paying taxes and shopping in these cities, they support cities with sports teams with offensive names, and probably spend more than $20 million over a few years collectively.
In a recent Sports Illustrated, we find these numbers:
The Peter Harris Research Group polled 352 Native Americans (217 living on reservations and 134 living off) and 743 sports fans; the results are published in SI's March 4  issue.
Here's the most important finding: "Asked if high school and college teams should stop using Indian nicknames, 81 percent of Native American respondents said no. As for pro sports, 83 percent of Native American respondents said teams should not stop using Indian nicknames, mascots, characters, and symbols."
The poll also found that 75 percent of Native Americans don't think the use of these team names and mascots "contributes to discrimination." Opinion is divided about the tomahawk chop displayed at Atlanta Braves games: 48 percent "don't care" about it; 51 percent do care, but more than half of them "like it." The name "Redskins" isn't especially controversial either; 69 percent of Native Americans don't object to it. As a general rule, Indians on reservations were more sensitive about team names and mascots, but not to the point where a majority of them ever sided with the activists on these questions.
Sports Illustrated writer S. L. Price reaches the obvious conclusion: "Although Native American activists are virtually united in opposition to the use of Indian nicknames and mascots, the Native American population sees the issue far differently."