Ohio Democrat Senator Praised Cleveland Indians’ Name Change While Working On Policy That Would Hurt Native Americans

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) last week praised the Cleveland Indians decision to change their name, which made the decision in response to claims the previous name was racist. Even though Brown praised the team’s move, he is holding a hearing this week regarding policies that would actually harm Native American tribes.

Last week, the Cleveland baseball team announced it was changing its name to the Guardians. On Friday, Brown released a statement supporting the decision.

“I welcome the name change and am excited to root for the Guardians. As a lifelong baseball fan, I know what the sport means to our state and how proud we are of our Ohio teams, especially here in Cleveland. This team has been a part of my life since my dad started taking my brothers and me to Municipal Stadium to see Rocky Colavito and Leon Wagner and Sam McDowell and Mudcat Grant and Tito Francona,” Brown said in a statement. “From the Spiders to the world champion Buckeyes, Cleveland has some of the richest baseball history in the country – including as a pioneer in racial integration of the major leagues with players like Hall of Fame legends Larry Doby and Satchel Paige and the slugger Luke Easter. Today is a proud day for Cleveland and now I want a World Series win.”

Brown had previously suggested the team rename itself to the Cleveland Buckeyes in honor of a historic all-black team based in Cleveland decades ago.

But while Brown publicly supported the name change – meant to show inclusivity and sensitivity to Native Americans – his committee is holding a hearing on Thursday supporting policies that would hurt Native Americans and Native American-owned lenders. The hearing, held by the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committee, which Brown chairs, is titled, “Protecting Americans from Debt Traps by Extending the Military’s 36% Interest Rate Cap to Everyone.” The policies being discussed are supposed to protect Americans from predatory lenders, but numerous tribal lenders say such a cap would hurt Native Americans and Native American-owned businesses.

The Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA), the largest trade association representing Native American-owned financial services businesses, sent a letter to Brown and ranking member Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA), suggesting an interest rate cap would hurt tribes. The letter, obtained by The Daily Wire, notes how Native American tribes were severely hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced all 474 Tribal casinos in America to close.

“During this time, Tribal financial services revenue was the last remaining lifeline for dozens of geographically-isolated Tribes, providing tens of thousands of Tribal citizens with food, shelter, and health care. Indian Country is diligently working to find ways to build economic sovereignty, but limited taxation capacity and lack of land to mortgage and leverage makes it nearly impossible.  Financial services and FinTech are areas that Tribes are finding to be the great equalizer for Indian Country, finally generating meaningful revenue that can lift our communities out of poverty,” NAFSA wrote. “Enacting a 36% rate cap would effectively eliminate these Tribal businesses, erase the good they  do for Native American governments and their citizens, and leave Indian country with yet another insurmountable burden and greater economic inequity.”

Multiple Native American-owned lenders with high APRs would be affected by the interest rate cap. And while these lenders have APRs that range up to 700 or 800%, the right-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute previously reported that APR calculation for short-term loan costs can be misleading.

“Using an annual percentage rate to calculate fees for short-term loans is misleading, because the loans are typically paid off in a matter of weeks, incurring a much smaller fee than a year-long calculation would imply,” said John Berlau, who co-authored the CEI report. “Worse, government-imposed fee caps on small dollar loans will discourage lenders from offering diverse, innovative loans to low- and middle-income consumers, the very people who may not have savings accounts or credit cards available to cover urgent, short-term expenses like car repair or a large, overdue utility bill.”

Further, what seems like a high fee relative to the amount borrowed (such as 15% over a two-week period), these amounts are preferable to defaulting on a loan or having the power shut off at one’s home.

So while a tribal lender such as Blue Trust Loans may have an APR ranging from 471% to 841%, the loans are paid off over weeks, not years, so those taking out loan won’t actually pay back the loan at that rate, making Brown’s cap not only unnecessary, but also harmful.

“This potential negative impact reaches far beyond Indian Country and its businesses. According to the Federal Reserve, only 64 percent of Americans would be able to cover a $400 emergency expense completely using cash or its equivalent in 2020, leaving 36% of the population reliant on credit access to cover unforeseen financial needs. A 36% rate cap would make depository institutions unable to profitably offer affordable small-dollar loans, thus severely and adversely impacting the nearly four-in-ten consumers who rely on credit to meet small-dollar emergency expenses,” NAFSA wrote.

Brown’s office did not respond to a press inquiry prior to publication.

The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.