April 16, 2014

Chief Wahoo hurts bottom line

Following the 42nd Annual Chief Wahoo Protest, some arguments against the stereotypical mascot:

The Wahoo debate has changed, but where do the Indians stand?

By Craig LyndallThere’s something vastly different about the Chief Wahoo debate this year. The protests have been going on at Opening Day for years, but the movement spawned a new arm since last season. There’s a new @DeChiefWahoo Twitter account that doesn’t have a ton of followers, but don’t be mistaken: This debate has moved beyond those activists directly impacted and into the fan base. Last week, I spoke with Brian Spaeth about the film he was making at the, but he never even had a chance to get any footage out before a photo from the scene by Peter Pattakos of Cleveland Frowns went viral. This site and others have talked about the Cleveland Indians and Chief Wahoo plenty already, so I’ll skip covering that same ground again. There’s one overriding feeling that I can’t help but focus on: The Cleveland Indians—most notable the Dolan family—is failing to lead on this issue.

I can’t figure out how this will ever end well for the Dolan family. By sitting in the background and seemingly waiting for the world to impact them, they’re failing to control the message. Just this morning, it’s being reported on NPR that ESPN has removed Chief Wahoo as an image by which they might use to talk about the team. Check another box for someone other than those most responsible for Wahoo having more of a stance. The Indians have taken an issue and decided pretty much not to have a stance on it at all. It’s a failure by the Cleveland Indians. They’ve lost control of the message. In fact, they don’t have a message at all and it will be a bigger and bigger problem going forward.
Native Mascots: Cleveland Is Not Rocking, Neither is Kansas City, Washington, Atlanta

By Todd BennettTo wear this garb is to disavow knowledge, easily discovered, that proves Native Americans were systematically persecuted. It is to ignore the messages of peace, and the contributions to farming, and the myriad survival techniques that were based on respect for all of God’s creatures, not just the capitalistic. It would not be acceptable to have a mascot of an African American man wearing a gold tooth and name your team the Thugs, or a Mexican with sunglasses and name the team the Cartels, so why is portraying natives to be savages acceptable? It isn’t.

The tragedy of stereotypes is not just the prejudice they foster, but the beautiful truths they obfuscate. If you want to make a respectful mascot based on the culture of a fascinating and by and large peaceful people, a screaming savage is not where you start. If you want to accurately portray the vast majority of Native American culture in one symbol, don’t start with an arrow, start with a big, red, striking …


The bottom line

The Cleveland Indians’ controversial mascot is hurting their bottom line

By Jeff YangTripathi and Lewis began their project by exploring the direct financial impact on teams that break with tradition by changing a mascot, starting with an analysis of college athletics, for which they had a much larger sample pool.

“In college basketball, you have quite a few teams that originally had a Native American mascot, but at some point decided to abandon it,” says Tripathi—including Illinois and Stanford, but also many others, like Syracuse, whose mascot from 1931 to 1978 was an “Indian Chief” called the “Saltine Warrior”; St. John’s, who were nicknamed the Redmen from the 1920s until 1994, and who had a Native American mascot through the ’60s and ’70s; Marquette University, which retired its mascot “Willie Wampum” in 1971, and renamed their team from the Warriors to the Golden Eagles in 1994; and Miami University of Ohio, which in 1997 went from the Redskins to the RedHawks.

“Given that we were doing a statistical model, it made sense to start with colleges, because we had tons of schools to work with,” says Tripathi. “And we also had great data: In the NCAA, because of Title IX, teams have to put all of their revenue data out there in public.”

What Tripathi and Lewis found was that, after accounting for factors like a team’s past performance, market size, and median income of the schools’ fanbases, in the short term, teams that eliminated a Native American mascot experienced a small, measurable revenue hit—but over the long term, the decision ended up boosting a school’s revenue. They surmised that this was due to a number of factors, including the elimination of negative publicity, expansion of the potential fan base, and subsequent implementation of new mascots with greater merchandising power.
Study: Teams with Native American mascots end up losing millions

By Kenley YoungIf negative public opinion about Native American mascots can't dissuade pro sports teams from using them, then maybe a study about the money they're losing because of those mascots will change their minds.

Just how much? It's apparently in the millions of dollars, according to research from Emory University.

It's a lot to go through, but the website Quartz summarizes it this way:Examining the financial performance over the past dozen years for four teams--the Kansas City Chiefs and the Washington Redskins in the NFL, and the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians in Major League Baseball--revealed the eye-opening result that having a Native American mascot appears to cost professional sports teams millions of dollars in annual revenue--at least $1.6 million per year in the NFL, and $2.6 million per year for MLB's Braves and Indians.
Comment:  So...whether the argument is moral or financial, supporters of Chief Wahoo and other Indian mascots lose. There's literally no excuse for keep these racist caricatures.

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