March 21, 2007

Chief Wahoo to celebrate civil rights?

Tribal Outcry

Chief Wahoo walks the Trail of Tears.When Major League Baseball went looking for teams to play in its inaugural Civil Rights Game, an exhibition scheduled for March 31 in Memphis, the Indians seemed a perfect fit. The Tribe, after all, employed the game's first black manager (Frank Robinson), the American League's first black player (Larry Doby), and the league's first special-needs child (Albert Belle).

But real Indians in Memphis aren't sure that a team represented by a cartoon chief pays particularly swell homage to civil rights. The city sits on the Trail of Tears, where the U.S. Government forced Cherokees to relocate out west in 1838, inconveniently killing thousands along the way.
How sensitive are the Cleveland Indians to the issue?Tribe VP Bob DiBiasio says Chief Wahoo won't appear on the team's uniforms for the game; both Cleveland and the St. Louis Cardinals will wear special Civil Rights Game garb. Plans to have some guys from a nearby bar reenact Wounded Knee have also been scrapped.

But DiBiasio says there's nothing demeaning about the Indians' name or logo. "We are who we are. Our logo is what it is. ... When people look at our logo, they think of baseball."

Unless, of course, they don't.

"I don't see baseball," says Cummins. "I see the exploitation and the disrespect toward an entire ethnic group."

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