Cleveland Indians and Chief Wahoo

Script Ilive in Cleveland, Ohio and have been a Cleveland Indians fan since the summer of 1986 (I moved to Cleveland in November of 1985). I watch the Cavs but am not that invested in it, and I’ve never been a Browns fan. Baseball has always been my sport.

For a little background on what I hope will be a concise and well thought-out article, my Indians gear mostly contains the Block C logo. I actually like the classic look. I have one or two items remaining that have the controversial Chief Wahoo logo. Although this article may be spurred on by the Chief Wahoo controversy and the decision by the Cleveland Indians to remove the Chief, to me, this is really about something more.

You see, not everything is argued equally, and that bothers me a little bit. You can use an argument for one side, but you’re not allowed to use the same argument for the other. Aside from mathematics, I think everything has a grey area. Nothing is black or white / right or wrong. We can all agree murder is wrong…..except if in war…..except if in self-defense…..except if someone was given the death penalty. There is nothing without a bit of grey, and, although that makes things difficult, that’s just the way it is.

Lastly, in full disclosure, I will say: I am white. I am male. I am in my forties. So, take all that for what it’s worth.

Chief Wahoo

ChiefSo, when the hub-bub really starting gaining traction a few years back, my initial reaction was that people were over-reacting and that Chief Wahoo was innocent and a nice little logo. Being the person that I am, I decided to do a little research. What is it about Chief Wahoo that is considered offensive to Native Americans?

In my research, the writer would describe the image of Chief Wahoo as the reasoning. I can see the image myself. I could not find any reasoning behind the offense. He has a big nose. Yes, the person who drew him was a 17yo Jewish boy with a big nose, and the story goes that he didn’t really know how to draw a Native American, so he drew a caricature of himself. Should the offense to the big nose be offensive to anyone with a big nose? People say he has a big goofy smile. That’s subjective. He has triangle eyes. Seems to represent a teepee, which, like it or not, is an image associated with Native Americans.

I went to Native American websites looking for some sort of back-up for the protests and the offense. I’m sure they are out there but are hard to find. I didn’t find anything backing up the logo, but, when I found something about this (Native American logos in general) written by a Native American, it was typically “We have more important issues to worry about than a sports team’s logo.” There was a younger Native American man who felt guilt about rooting for the Dallas Cowboys against the Washington Redskins. The Cowboy allegiance had nothing to do with the name or logo of the Redskins. He just liked the Cowboys.

Just recently I found an article depicting the “red feather” as the source of the outrage because a red eagle feather is very sacred, and the thought was that its inclusion on the image was sacrilegious. There we go. There’s something at least.

You see, what I really wanted to find was an independent poll conducted among Native Americans that actually said how the greater population felt. Supposedly, there was one done in 2002 by Sports Illustrated (there are questions about who they polled) that stated most Native Americans were fine with it, but I couldn’t find anything convincing one way or the other. For every comment I’d read about the Chief being offensive, I’d read one (supposedly from someone with Native American blood) about it not being offensive. Then, I’d read how, at one time at least, Chief Wahoo hats would be found all over Indian Reservations. The logo turned into a symbol of pride for some Native Americans. What do you do? Appease those that are offended by the logo? Appease those that use it as a sense of pride?

Lastly, there would be the comparison in artistic style to Little Black Sambo, which was designed to incite racist thought. Is intention a part of this at all? There was no finger pointing and laughs at Chief Wahoo. Or, is the Chief simply guilty by association?

The Argument

One of my first issues with arguing about this topic (or any other) is the unfair balance of reasoning.

White Person #1: “I think Chief Wahoo is offensive and racist.”

White Person #2: “I don’t think Chief Wahoo is offensive and racist.”

White Person #1: “You’re not Native American. You can’t say whether or not it’s offensive. Your opinion doesn’t matter.”

The problem I have with this type of argument is that, if White Person #2 cannot have an opinion on it, then neither can White Person #1. I’m not Native American, so I cannot say it is offensive. However, I also cannot say it’s not. We would all be speculating. I’ve read the same types of things in political debates, etc. The same argument can be used for or against an issue, but people think they are the only ones allowed to have an opinion or use a certain statement to back them up. It doesn’t work that way. If you nullify someone’s argument with a statement that would also nullify yours, you have to accept it.

In any case, I agree. As a 40+yo white male, I do not know if Native Americans truly find Chief Wahoo offensive and racist, so I should have no say in the matter one way or the other, which is why I was really hoping for more input from the Native American community. Unless I can speak to representatives from every Native American tribe, I will never get a true flavor of how the nation is feeling.

That being said, there is no one from the Native American community defending these types of logos, but the naysayers appear to be a small percentage. Do majority of Native Americans really not care? Do they not have a platform to express their opinions? My son has Type 1 Diabetes. Jimmy Kimmel makes a joke about diabetes on his show, and he gets killed on social media with the outrage about his idiotic comments. I see the reaction first hand. Why is there not this type of outrage from the Native American community?

The other big issue I have is when someone tries to make a point by using comparisons but does not make it an apples-to-apples comparison.

CaucasiansSomeone came up with the Caucasians logo as a means to demonstrate how offensive Chief Wahoo is. I read: Do you think this is offensive? If you do but don’t think Chief Wahoo is offensive, then you are a racist. The only thing close to offensive with this logo would be the dollar sign coming out of the guy’s head, which, of course, is saying that all caucasians are greedy. First off, I don’t think greed is a race-specific attribute. I think that’s definitely a human attribute that spans all races. Also, there is not an attack on Native American character on the Chief Wahoo logo, which makes this argument completely irrelevant. Is there anything else about this that is offensive? No. If there was a logo like this and a team called the Caucasians, I’m sure they’d be blasted as racist for identifying with Whites. From an artistic point-of-view, though, I think they’d need to do something with the eyes. I always saw the eyes as being representative of a teepee, so that doesn’t make any sense on the Caucasian logo. I think they’d  have to come up with another shape to have it make sense. But, to sum up, if you are going to make an argument, don’t intentionally add something “offensive” as a comparison to try to make your point when the equivalent isn’t there on what you are defending.

Logo

It’s a logo. That’s it. This is directed more at the die-hards. When I go to Progressive Field (and nothing will stop me from going – not keeping the logo / not removing the logo), I go to watch my favorite baseball team and hopefully see some good baseball being played. I don’t even pay attention to the cap they are wearing. If you are rooting for The Tribe or taking a trip to Progressive Field because of Chief Wahoo, then I’d have to question your liking for baseball. To be honest, I could care less what’s on their uniforms.

I understand Chief Wahoo represents baseball and some good times you had as a child or as a parent taking your child to his/her first game. Maybe their faces lit up when you bought them their first hat, which happened to have Chief Wahoo on it. No one is going to take those memories away from you. No one is coming to your home and throwing away your Chief Wahoo. In fact, the Indians will continue to sell Chief Wahoo merchandise in order to keep the trademark on the image (otherwise, someone else could pick up the trademark and do who-knows-what with it).

I’m going to enjoy Cleveland Indians baseball regardless of the logo they are using.

Not Good Enough

I’ve read posts/comments that people are pissed that they are still using the logo in 2018. They should get rid of it now!

I’m sorry, but this “never satisfied” approach is what makes it difficult to incite change in the first place. If the thought process behind not making a change was – even if we make this change, people aren’t going to be satisfied, so why bother doing it – I would understand their thinking. It’s a big endeavor. For those agreeing with the removal of the Chief, be happy it is going away. To start complaining that it’s not happening fast enough for you makes you look like a sore winner.

The Name

Along the same lines, people are already calling for a name change. Here is where I think I know where it’s coming from, but I don’t understand it.

We need to get rid of the name Indians, Braves, Redskins, etc. I think this would be a horrible thing. I may be wrong on this – just a white guy’s opinion – but Sport nicknames and logos are what is keeping the Native Americans on the minds of the rest of the country. Take away the sport nicknames, and I think the Native Americans slowly fade away from the public consciousness. I personally think the end result will not be what you were thinking when pushing for this. The Native American population is not big enough. They need all the help they can get. It costs money to advertise. This is free advertisement to remind people of the Native Americans making up the country’s population.

If the Indian names must be removed because they are offensive, I do truly believe we need to get rid of names like the Irish, Yankees, Rangers, Pirates, Cowboys, etc. If it’s not right to have a team named after a real population of people, then it’s not right to have a team named after a real population of people. You can’t make your argument and then say the others don’t matter because they basically represent Whites. That would be a racist comment as well.

Summary

I have no problem with the Cleveland Indians jettisoning their mascot. I don’t watch baseball for logos and mascots. I watch it because I love the sport. That being said, I don’t personally see the racism in Chief Wahoo. I just wish more Native Americans would speak up about the Chief one way or the other, so I can make a more informed opinion. Is the lack of noise because Native Americans do not support the Chief or because they really don’t care one way or the other? I don’t know. For my own personal collection, I am mostly sporting the Block C now. I actually like it. If Chief Wahoo is offending Native Americans, then that’s not my intent.

People who love and identify with Chief Wahoo are not racists. I don’t know anyone who has thought positively or negatively about Native Americans because of Chief Wahoo. It’s simply the mascot for their favorite baseball team. To them, getting rid of Chief Wahoo is akin to throwing away their favorite toy that they kept since they were a child because of the memories associated to it. Think before you start hurling out insults.

For people who are offended by Chief Wahoo, they are not weak or libtards or whatever insults I’ve been reading. Many people know or are Native Americans, and the Native Americans they know or are related to may be insulted by the mascot. This will inform their opinion on it. Just like those who do not have a loved one suffering a life-threatening disease like diabetes may not think twice about making a joke about it, those who are in the everyday care of the disease are going to get pissed when you minimalize the dangers of the disease with your misinformed jokes.

Lastly, I understand many people have this White Guilt (not sure what else to call it), but I don’t personally understand why it’s okay to demand something for one race but not think another race deserves the same treatment. To me, whether it’s directed at white, black, yellow, brown, green or blue, that’s racism.

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