I’m from Ohio, but not the side of the state where the red-skinned, big-tooth logo reigns supreme, so I don’t have any sentimental value associated with the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo. Even with the logo going the way of the buffalo in 2019, I can’t understand the outrage.
For the ones who hold the Chief dear in northeastern Ohio, merchandise will still be sold. The caricature will be removed from Cleveland Indians jerseys following the season, but I will tell you that I find it absurd that it takes a full season to remove a logo from a jersey like this is some kind of nuclear disarmament treaty.
Branch Rickey once said, “Baseball people are slow to change and accept new ideas.” He knows better than most as perhaps the most influential person in baseball history.
He was the first one to use analytical data create his teams, something that took the rest of the league six decades to catch up on, he was the first one to create a farm system, he ushered in the expansion era but above the rest he desegregated the game. He signed Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente. He broke tradition and angered the nation over what he thought was right (and he wanted to win a World Series multiple times.)
Isn’t that what this outrage is about? Breaking tradition and giving into progressive America? Of course it is.
People are sickened to see political correctness make its way into baseball. “Leave politics out of sports,” is what people are shouting from the shores of Lake Erie all the way through Indian fandom. People are tired of the change being pushed onto them, which is fair, but sometimes change cannot be feared for sometimes, change ushers in what is right. After all, baseball stands for a place of inclusiveness, and keeping a mascot that is caricature of Native Americans is anything but inclusive.
In fact, Jim Thome, who just this January was voted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, has said he doesn’t want Chief Wahoo on his plaque in Cooperstown claiming very simply that he thinks “it’s the right thing to do,” (Cleveland.com reports). Thome was the poster child of the Indians during the 1990s and early 2000s, and this decision to distance himself from the logo while being enshrined in immortality has angered fans even further. Thome is breaking the tradition. But what tradition is that exactly? Of the 14 Indians in the hall of fame, only one is seen with Chief Wahoo on his plaque, Early Wynn.
Perhaps I am overstepping, but imagine if any sports team had a caricature of what African Americans or Jews “look like.” Spouting stereotypes in an offensive way, such as big lips and an overtly big nose, people would, hopefully, immediately recognize the insensitivity of those hypothetical mascots, and, once again, hopefully, people would call for the removal of those mascots.
So why is there any outrage over Chief Wahoo? Certainly you don’t think Native Americans actually look like that? And, are Native Americans not subjected to the same decency as other groups of people? Anyone arguing for the Chief Wahoo mascot to stay would certainly be thinking that way.
Maybe, you have heard that some Native Americans don’t mind the logo, and there certainly may be some who think that way. However, many Native Americans have gone on the record about being offended by the logo. Even if only a few find it demeaning and offensive, the case should be closed, and Wahoo should be gone.
While the Indians are going to still make merchandise and profits off of Chief Wahoo for the time being, which still doesn’t quite sit right in my stomach, it is certainly a step forward in the right direction that the Chief will be removed from the field of play. Good for the Indians in recognizing the problem, and finally doing something, even if they were strong-armed by the league office.
Hopefully, the Washington Redskins will soon follow suit, and perhaps even the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.