Chief Wahoo, the long standing racist caricature representing the Cleveland Indians will finally be retired in 2019. Only after making a retirement tour of shame around the majors in 2018. The mascot has been a point of contention among fans and civil rights groups for decades.
Many are applauding the Indians decision today as the right thing to do, a long time coming, or both depending on your level of cynicism.
This move has no less reignited the debate as to what teams with names and logos regarded largely as racist should do going forward… Looking at you Washington
As reddit user imnotminkus points out studies conducted by the American Psychological Association and others have found American Indian mascots to be offensive and demeaning to native peoples. Specifically by way of establishing a negative, and often times hostile image of American Indians to nonnative peoples; as well as reinforcing a negative sense of self worth in Native Americans themselves.
The American Psychological Association recommends “the immediate retirement of American Indian mascots, symbols, images, and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams, and organizations.”
Furthermore this afternoons changes by the Indians organization have sparked some additional controversy as to if this move goes far enough. With detractors saying that the team name of Indians should go as well. Also that waiting until 2019 to phase out Chief Wahoo is too long of a window.
This isn’t anything atypical. Social issues such as this will always be met with some amount of public friction.
You’ll never please us all, and if baseball has taught us anything you can’t win them all.
From a business standpoint the wait until 2019 can be understood. Organizations as large as professional baseball teams have likely already ordered their merchandise to be sold during the 2018 season making it hard and costly to update the teams branding for the 2018 season since they would effectively have to do so retroactively. Even knowing the season is yet to begin.
*Is it a shameless money grab to cash in on the logo one last time? A poorly timed announcement? An effort to make the big wigs at the MLB happy since Cleveland is hosting the 2019 All-Star Game? A genuine good deed they wanted to make known as soon as possible? Some combination of all the aforementioned? Who knows.
Constructive critique, and respectful debate are important parts of the public discourse. This is no different.
Making this the perfect time for me to inject my personal opinion into all of this.
I applaud the Cleveland Indians for their phasing out of Chief Wahoo. I understand why the move won’t be in full effect until 2019 and *some items still bearing Chief Wahoo will be available in the northern Ohio market.
In the long run Chief Wahoo should be fully phased out. To a degree I can understand how fans can cling to something near and dear to them especially when it has persisted for so long. Even if it isn’t a shining example of a progressive and inclusive culture.
We can’t white wash our history. Chief Wahoo should serve as a lesson of what not to do going forward, and how to move away from your past. That past can progressively fade overtime. It doesn’t have to disappear into the immediate darkness.
As for the team name of the Indians. Consulting actual Native American tribes would probably be a good jumping off point. If Florida State University can teach us anything it is that you can tastefully use the likeness of native peoples with their consideration and input. Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks can also serve as a positive example of using Native Americans in a mostly neutral, or faintly positive manner.
As for teams like the Washington Redskins… The name absolutely should go. It paints Native Americans in a negative light on one of the, if not the biggest stage in professional sports.
However, if team ownership wants to cling to that name, make it their hill to die on then be my guest. As the ACLU said “Redskins owner is an “a**hole,” but we’ll defend his First Amendment rights.”
I agree with that, but just because I agree with their right doesn’t mean I’ll support them.
To end this on a slightly more cheery note showcasing that people can change their way of thinking for the better; here is an Indians fan confronting a group of activist while wearing red face saying he’s “honoring Native Americans”…
Here is that same fan two years later making peace with the activist saying he had re-evaluated his position and is sorry for his actions.