January 09, 2014

Cleveland Indians demote Chief Wahoo

Cleveland Indians demote Chief Wahoo logo

By David BrownChief Wahoo, the smiling symbol of the Cleveland Indians since the 1940s who is beloved by many but deemed to be racist by others, is being replaced as a primary logo, uniform expert Paul Lukas reported Wednesday. Instead, the team will emphasize a block letter "C" they introduced in recent seasons. The Indians aren't eliminating the Chief—the home uniform will continue to feature him on caps and jersey sleeves—but fans will see less of him overall.And more important, the explanation:While the Indians never come out and say they're marginalizing the Chief, they seem to be continuing a trend of de-emphasizing him. They've reduced his visibility at spring training in Arizona, where more Native Americans live. They don't use him at every opportunity to publicize team events or programs anymore. They've also surveyed their fans asking their feelings on the Chief, as if to gain "permission" to make a change.

While it would seem that most of their hardcore supporters also support the Chief—or at least are neutral about him—other factions consider Wahoo to be an overtly racist caricature that demeans Native Americans. By moving to marginalize the Chief, the Indians can have it every possible way: Fans can buy more stuff with the hyped-up block "C" if they like. Fans still will be able to buy Chief Wahoo stuff in case they're afraid it's going out of style or will be taken away. It can even be used as clothing of defiance!

Simultaneously, the Indians can appear to be subtly appeasing those against use of the Chief while also being sensitive to Chief loyalists by keeping items with his kisser stocked in their stores.

It's a sound strategy, even if it's just a stopgap and they have to make a more permanent decision on the Chief someday. Cleveland's situation is probably different from that which faces the NFL's Washington Redskins. At some point in the future, it's going to become too socially unacceptable for the Redskins to keep their nickname. They'll be forced to change. The Indians have more wriggle room because the Chief is just a logo. He can hide.
Cleveland Indians Slowly Phasing out Chief WahooA block “C” is not the sexiest logo, but it’s a change in the right direction.

The Cleveland Indians have slowly phased out its Chief Wahoo logo in favor of that big C, but the team hasn’t eliminated the Chief completely. The smiling Indian caricature, deemed racist by many, will remain on the caps and jersey sleeves of its home uniform.

Although there’s been no official statement from the organization, the trend toward de-emphasizing Wahoo is continuing. The logo on the caps has changed, the team reduced the logo’s visibility at spring training, and they don’t promote the Chief like they did during past publicity events.

The New Republic reports that Curtis Danberg, the Indians’ senior director of communications, said that there is not any sudden move to ditch the chief and that their decision to phase out the logo is unrelated to anything in the news, in other words the “Redskins” debate. “There is no conspiracy theory,” Danberg said.
Indians: No plans to phase out Chief Wahoo

By The Sports XchangeThe Cleveland Indians on Thursday denied reports the team is looking to phase out the Chief Wahoo logo, but acknowledged the logo being used by Major League Baseball might change.

Curtis Danburg, the Indians' director of communications, said the club is not looking to phase out the Chief Wahoo logo anytime soon, Cleveland.com reported.

Pundits respond

Cleveland Indians must end offensive use of Chief Wahoo—or seek blessing of Penobscot Nation

By Ed RiceThe original nickname “Indians,” officially adopted in 1915, owes to Penobscot Nation tribesman Louis Francis Sockalexis, who played with the then-Cleveland Spiders from 1897-99.

Sockalexis, a Penobscot from the Indian Island reserve on the Penobscot River near Old Town, was the sensation of professional baseball for three incredible months in 1897. Sockalexis was the first known Native American to play Major League baseball, was the undeniable inspiration for the team’s nickname, and endured horrific Jackie Robinson-style racial prejudice 50 years before Robinson that goes completely unrecognized today.
And:So, how does the Penobscot Nation feel about this? Well, actually, the Cleveland team already knows.

In 2000, the Penobscot Indian Nation Council sent the Cleveland Indians organization a resolution, asking the team to cease and desist from using the symbol Chief Wahoo to represent the nickname “Indians,” which the team proudly acknowledges in its literature was inspired by Sockalexis.

The resolution was ignored.
Give Chief Wahoo the Justine Sacco treatment: Fire the racist mascot

By Matthew FleischerWatching the aftermath of Lukas’ report has been unsettling. Indians Director of Communications Curtis Danburg went to great pains to insist to the local news, “There's no process to eliminate Chief Wahoo." A Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter subsequently attempted to assuage fans, “Don’t worry ... the Cleveland Indians are not looking to phase out the logo any time soon.”

These efforts to pacify fans about Wahoo’s fate are clearly disingenuous. The team has been subtly toning down his presence since 2009, when Wahoo was first replaced by a “C” on the team’s away batting helmets. Last year he was gone from the home helmets too. Recently unveiled designs show he’s nowhere to be seen in the team’s spring training jerseys; not surprising, perhaps, since the team plays in Arizona—you know, where lots of actual Indians live.

The Cleveland Indians know full well their mascot is racist, which is why all this equivocating to pacify insensitive local sensibilities is so disturbing. And the team knows this issue is much bigger than Cleveland.

We live in a hyper-connected media-saturated world, a world that loves its sports. That means every time a Cleveland shortstop makes a spectacular play, we see Chief Wahoo on “SportsCenter.” It means when Cleveland plays in a high-profile game, we see Wahoo’s face splashed across television and newspapers in the run-up to the game.
Dropping Chief Wahoo is big step forward for Cleveland team

It's a preemptive move by Cleveland in response to pressure on Washington NFL team, Ian Campeau says

By Ian Campeau
The Cleveland Indians are dropping Chief Wahoo as their primary logo.

It's a gigantic step in the right direction to retire the extremely racist caricatured depiction of a First Nation person.

I believe this is a preemptive move by the Cleveland Major League Baseball organization in response to the pressure that the Washington NFL organization has received over the past year.

It's a good move, and in the right direction, but for now the logo will remain on caps and jersey sleeves.​ And we're still being stereotyped and labelled as "Indians" by the organization. They’re still exploiting us for non-indigenous profit by using the name. It’s still robbing us of our individual nationhood.

Until the team name is changed to something that doesn't marginalize by race, it will continue to receive criticism.
Comment:  I presume Ed Rice is making his Penobscot proposal with his tongue in cheek. In reality, of course, it doesn't matter which Indian or Indians the team was named after. Chief Wahoo came after Louis Sockalexis and isn't directly related to him.

Moreover, regardless of the origin of the name and logo, the team is located in Ohio, not Maine. And it plays for national audiences. So the name and logo aren't local issues.

In other words, moral "ownership" of the name and logo belongs to all Native Americans, not just the Penobscots. Every Native has a right to demand that Cleveland change the name and especially the racist logo. If the Penobscots said they didn't mind Chief Wahoo, the proper response would be, "So? Many Natives and non-Natives find him offensive."

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