On YNF Entertainment Magazine, “the best entertainment magazine in the UK“, presented In New Film, The Year Of The Dog, Indie Filmmaker And Lakota Actor Address Michael Spears, address issue of controversial American professional sports team names in The Year Of The Dog.
The Year Of The Dog
Rob Grabow, the lead actor, writer, producer, and co-director of the independent film The Year of the Dog, asks viewers to consider the question, “Is the Kansas City Chiefs team name harmful?” as the team get ready to play in Superbowl LVII on Sunday, February 12th.
Two strays are the focus of the story in The Year of the Dog, which will be released nationwide on February 24, 2023; Yup’ik, a rescue dog with an unusual athletic ability, and Matt, an alcoholic who is having trouble staying sober. The movie takes viewers on a touching journey of forgiving, finding meaning, connecting with others, and ultimately healing.
Addressing Controversial Team Names
It was never Grabow’s intention to use his first feature film to discuss offensive fan customs like the “tomahawk chop” and controversial American professional sports team names like the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Chiefs. However, after filming an initial scene with Lakota-Sioux actor Michael Spears, who has appeared in Dances with Wolves, Reservation Dogs, and 1923, Grabow noticed that Spears appeared to be upset and approached him on day one. Spears admitted to Grabow that it hurt him to perform the scene because Grabow’s character wore a Braves cap, and the degrading gestures, cartoonish rituals, and use of Native American team names are extremely harmful to indigenous people’s self-esteem and dignity.
Since Dances With Wolves, Spears has dedicated his life to supporting indigenous youth and traveling the country to raise awareness of indigenous concerns. Grabow was informed by Spears that seeing the Braves name was humiliating.
Grabow was appalled and stunned. The Atlanta Braves, one of only two professional sports teams regularly shown on television where he grew up in Alaska, were Grabow’s first exposure to professional baseball. He admired them so much that when he was nine years old, he spent his life savings on a Braves baseball cap as his first personal purchase. As a result, Grabow included the Braves hat and team name in a few scenes of his original script as part of Matt’s endearing backstory. He was unaware of the emotional harm it would cause not only his cast member but also an Indigenous community.
Grabow acted quickly, inviting Spears to assist in the rewriting of the scene and developing new dialogue that directly addressed the issue of the Braves hat. The scene gained significance and poignancy as a result.
Changes Across The Country
The use of insulting and hurtful symbols has been modified or eliminated in hundreds of high schools and colleges across the country. The Washington Redskins are now The Comanders, and MLB’s Cleveland Indians, as the team was known for more than a century, are now The Guardians. A high school team in Utah, formerly known as the Bountiful Braves, is now known as the Bountiful RedHawks because they were aware of the distress it brought to their community, and The Chamberlain Storm are a high school team in Florida that used to be called the Chamberlain Chiefs.
Even though the film only deals with a minor subplot about offensive sports team names like the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Braves, it still leaves audiences wondering, just like it does a lifelong Braves fan like Grabow, why do a select few of our professional sports teams continue to use names that hurt the self-esteem of millions of Indigenous Americans?