Courtesy: Hardballtalk.NBCSports.com

The Cleveland ___________: Racism In Logo Form


Hello 2013, where attacking the Cleveland Indians and the Chief Wahoo logo is apparently the thing to do. With no New York team in the playoffs, a new topic seemed appropriate, and with the Tribe in the playoffs, what better item to focus on than their long-time logo in the national media rather than the success that the team had during the 2013 season.

This issue has been brought up several times, seemingly when the teams that are sporting the nicknames of “Braves”, “Indians”, or “Redskins” appear all over the news. In the 1990′s, Native American groups were protesting the Atlanta Braves and their use of the tomahawk chop, but why wasn’t the logo a large-scale issue when the Braves were horrifically awful from 1985 to 1990, when the club posted a .402 winning percentage? The attack on the Washington Redskins appeared to start with the success that the club had last season when Robert Griffin III took the National Football League by storm. Now, the Indians, who were winning this season, are getting the national racist plug and focus.

Certainly, there are valid reasons that teams shouldn’t have names like “Braves”, “Indians”, and “Redskins”, but why all of the fuss now? Are people more sensitive to the team names now?

Courtesy: CBS Cleveland

Courtesy: CBS Cleveland

There are definitely more outlets for protesting, as social media continues to influence the way that the world receives information. The National Congress of American Indians released the photo to the left in poster form, displaying the Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo logo along with two additional, stereotypical teams that the organization created to validate their argument. It was very well done. The poster reads: ”No race, creed or religion should endure the ridicule faced by the Native Americans today. Please help us put an end to this mockery and racism by visiting www.ncai.org.” This is quite possibly the best argument that I have ever seen to rid the world of sports from stereotypical names, but, again…why now?

The Cleveland Indians have been a part of professional baseball since 1915. Prior to 1915, Cleveland had the Naps (1903-1914), the Bronchos (aka Broncos, 1902), the Blues (1879-1884, and 1901), the Infants (1890), and the Spiders (1887-1899). Although there is now a rich history and tradition to the Cleveland Indians name, why does it seem so difficult for teams to move away from the stereotypical nicknames?

While teams would bask in the glory of the revenue stream that comes from re-branding the team name and logo, fans may have a problem with the change. Most can afford simply buying a new t-shirt or hat, but those who have devoted their entire lives to the cause, like John Adams in the top row of the outfield bleachers, how would the sudden change alter their fanhood? What would John Adams be without his drum, would the drum make sense if the Indians were to go back to the Spiders…should we even care?

At the end of the day, no one is nicknamed the Crackers while playing in a nice pair of Dockers and a polo shirt with a logo of a white man with a tremendously parted hairline listening to Coldplay or Michael Buble on an iPod. If there was such a name, what would the reaction be from white America? Probably outrage…protesting…a call to their Congressman.

So why all the fuss about changing the logo of something that seems so blatantly racist today?

Because it just doesn’t make sense from either side.

Chief Wahoo is obviously a stereotypical logo. There is nothing positive that can be said about his features and how they depict an entire race. Changing the logo, though, wouldn’t be enough. Even going to a caricature of Disney’s Pocahontas wouldn’t be the right answer, as women would be outraged by the chest to waistline ratio that comes from all of the disproportionate cartoon ladies from the perverts drawing for Disney.

I honestly was on the other side of the argument until I saw the Wahoo faces that were a constant within the TBS broadcast of the American League Wild Card game in Cleveland. I thought that the logo was just a logo and that people were just trying to make a name for themselves, gain some publicity for their organizations, and possibly get a little bit of cash. However, I’ve always considered a white person in black-face a crime to society. This “creative idea” by the Cleveland Indian fans on that night, truly opened my eyes to the stupidity of the Chief Wahoo logo.

You could argue that nearly every team nickname could be interpreted as offensive in some way…

Pirates – they’ve taken the lives of many unfortunate folks. Isn’t it insensitive to assume that a family who has lost a loved one by an attack to have to watch the Jolly Roger be raised with every Pittsburgh Pirates win?

Reds – Cincinnati changed their nickname to the Redlegs during the “red scare” as a way to rid themselves from being linked to Communism. With all of those oppressed by Communism and “Reds” being linked, shouldn’t Cincinnati change back to Redlegs?

Brewers – Should we celebrate alcohol when so many are impacted by drunk drivers every year?

Yankees – Isn’t this a nickname that brings back the cultural differences from the Confederacy and the oppression that came along with slavery? Maybe it is time to change this to something more appropriate.

However, they just aren’t quite so obvious. I’m not typically a politically correct type of person, and I’m not a fan of the hatred towards the logos that only seems present when a team is having success, but you can’t argue with what you see, and if you can’t see the racism and stereotypes within Chief Wahoo, then ask someone of a different race what stereotypes you fit.

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Tags: Chief Wahoo Cleveland Indians Racism Washington Redskins

  • tribescribe

    The timing of the complaints makes them no less valid. Of course, the proponents of retiring Chief Wahoo and other offensive names, mascots and logos take advantage when those teams are in the public eye. That’s the best time to draw attention to their message. And when fans paint their faces inappropriately or wear ridiculous headdresses, their argument is only strengthened.

    Chief Wahoo’s supporters often make a “rich tradition and history” defense: The Wahoo logo has been around since 1947; by wearing the logo, I am merely expressing my pride as an Indians fan, not demeaning another race. Americans who still display or wave the Confederate flag often make a similar argument: The flag is just part of the rich tradition and history of the South; by displaying the flag, I am merely expressing my pride as a Southerner, not calling for a return to slavery.

    But you can’t remove from a symbol or caricature the history and context in which it was created. Like it or not, the Confederate flag will always be associated with slavery and Chief Wahoo will always be compared to “Sambo” caricatures of African-Americans. Wahoo was created at a time when it was culturally OK to depict other races in a demeaning way for humor or propaganda. Look at depictions of the Japanese in WWII propaganda, or African-Americans in Tom and Jerry cartoons if you need proof.

    Regardless how Indians fans feel about it now, the logo is offensive on its face (no pun intended). The time has come to retire the Chief, permanently, and replace him with a logo that doesn’t perpetuate racist stereotypes. The Tribe’s leadership could view this as a chance to leave the past behind, rename the team, and build a new, stronger brand.
    Or they could keep the name and make themselves a model in representing American Indians in sport by partnering with local tribes, presenting exhibits of Native American history at the ballpark, and publishing articles in game programs and media guides.
    Either choice would be preferable to the status quo.