There is something problematic about one of the teams playing in the World Series this year. The Cleveland Indians have a team name and logo that is racist and offensive.
Chief Wahoo, the logo of the Indians, is where the bulk of the problem arises. He is a red-faced, grinning Native American with a feather behind his head. There is a mischievous look to him, which is not a flattering portrayal. Stereotypes are behind every one of Chief Wahoo’s features.
The Indians changed the logo on their cap from Chief Wahoo to just the letter “C,” so they must know Chief Wahoo is offensive. This is not enough, however, when the logo is still featured prominently on team apparel.
Some fans take Chief Wahoo a step further and decide it would be a good idea to dress up as him. Although these fans might not have bad intentions, they end up making a mockery of Native American culture. They paint their faces red, they wear feathered headdresses and they make fools of themselves.
Philip Yenyo is a Native American civil rights activist who has spoken out against Native American team names. “I think they’re offensive. I don’t believe that any group of people should be used as mascots. We’re human beings, we’re a living culture,” he said to Al-Jazeera Media Network. He also pointed out the eagle feather Chief Wahoo sports on his head is sacred to some and should not be used for entertainment. Yenyo is just one of many Native Americans who does not like the Cleveland Indians name.
Most Americans are not directly offended by Chief Wahoo or the Indians team name. That is expected. Most Americans are not part of the culture that it’s portraying. In fact, many would be bothered if the Indians changed their name because baseball fans cling to tradition.
According to a poll by the Denver Post, 65 percent of its readers didn’t find the name offensive.
However, I ask you to be offended on behalf of the ones who are harmed by this stereotype. Understand how this team name and logo can be seen as racist. Appreciate the culture of the indigenous people, don’t make a mockery of it.
The Indians are not alone in their team name controversy. Across sports, the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Redskins all have names with this same facet. The Redskins is the most egregious of them all. It’s literally a slur that has been used against Native Americans. All of these teams should evaluate their priorities. Driven by jersey sales and tradition, the default position is to keep the name.
There is no place in baseball for a team name like the Indians. The name stands out when next to other normal team names like the Pirates or Giants. It’s not hard to find a team name that isn’t racially charged. There are no other team names derived from cultures that still exist. You would never see a team called the Cleveland Mexicans, so why is it OK to be called the Cleveland Indians?
The Florida State Seminoles have managed to pay homage to the Seminole tribe with their team name. The university has permission from the Seminole tribe, and they work hand in hand with them to honor the traditions of the tribe. Classes are taught on campus about the history of the Seminoles. Their mascot is an honorable and proper tribute to the Seminoles. This is simply not the case for the Indians.
There is no need for a team name like the Indians. The name was arbitrarily chosen decades ago, and has no place in modern baseball. The desire to cling to this name for the sake of tradition is expected, but logic must prevail. Change is long overdue.