Last week I wrote an article about Chief Wahoo and his future with the Cleveland Indians. At the time, I was expecting that article to be a solo piece. However, as this week has progressed the feedback from fans has been amazing. On top of that, there is a lawsuit in the works against the Cleveland Indians for $9 Billion Dollars. No, that wasn’t a typo, I wrote $9 BILLION. The suit is expected to be filed next month.
“Robert Roche, a Chiricahua Apache and director of the American Indian Education Center, is planning to file a federal lawsuit in late July against the Cleveland Indians organization. Roche, who is also the leader of the group People Not Mascots, says the lawsuit will challenge that the team’s name and Chief Wahoo logo are racist.
“We’re going to be asking for $9 billion and we’re basing it on a hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation and profiteering,” Roche told WEWS-TV. “It’s been offensive since day one. We are not mascots. My children are not mascots. We are people.” (Quote Courtesy of CBS Sports- http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/24597118/native-american-group-planning-9-billion-lawsuit-against-the-indians”
In my first article I tried to stay in the middle of the debate. I still understand the argument on both sides; however, this lawsuit is ridiculous and laughable. Let’s look at the keys words used; “a hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation and profiteering,” Technically speaking, disparity, exploitation and profiteering, can be thrown out right away. American Indians are allowed to play in the major leagues, so disparity is off the table. Currently there are three players who are consider themselves American Indians; Jacoby Ellsbury, Kyle Lohse, and Joba Chamberlain.
Next there is exploitation. The definition of exploitation is:the action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work or the action of making use of and benefiting from resources (Definition courtesy of Google Dictionary). The Cleveland Indians, to my knowledge, have not used any resources that belong to American Indians. You can debate the land, if you want, however that belongs to the City of Cleveland, not the baseball team. Exploitation is off the table. I should be a lawyer, this is really easy. Do I even need to go into profiteering? This is “the act of making a profit by methods considered unethical” Legally speaking the Cleveland Indians operate under the current State and Federal Laws of the United States. Profiteering is off the table.
The only word that holds any merit would be racism. American Indians complaints lie with the name Indians and Chief Wahoo. The only problem is that the word Indians isn’t a racist term. At least I don’t think it’s a racist term. Chief Wahoo on the other hand, isn’t as easy to defend. The chief that most of us recognize is the red faced chief currently on the uniforms. This has been the same since 1951. A prior depiction of the chief, such as the one between 1946 and 1950 was very racist. He had a yellow face, a giant nose, a pony tail, and a feather tied into his hair. This was considered the most offensive caricature of the chief. At the time, this depiction wasn’t even called Chief Wahoo. That name was started in 1951 with the current version of the chief.
We had a very informal Twitter poll this week on our @CSTsportsTalk twitter account. The question was; keep the chief or retire him? The feedback was very good; there were 72 total responses to the Tweet. I thought the results would show people were in favor of the chief. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming majority that wanted to keep Chief Wahoo. 58 people said keep while only 14 people said retire.
While these results are very informal, I do feel that they reflect the feelings of most fans. Chief Wahoo isn’t seen as a racist depiction of American Indians, but rather a symbol of summer and America’s pastime. It’s a symbol that an entire city can rally behind. Chief Wahoo represents a playoff game when the stadium is filled to the max. It represents a new hope that rises every spring when the Indians take the field for the first time. He represents the hope of an entire city that this might be the year. Chief Wahoo is baseball, he is the Indians, and I want it to stay that way.
Written by Rick Giavonette – @CST_RickG