The Press Box Perspective: The Case Against Chief Wahoo
By Drew Zuhosky
We’re less than a week away from the Cleveland Indians opening spring training play with the first of a three-game series versus the Cincinnati Reds.
Around this time every year, the debate over whether or not Chief Wahoo, the Indians’ animated logo, is racially insensitive heats up. Especially now, since the team’s training complex is located in Goodyear, Arizona, near the Ak-Chin Indian Community in Phoenix.
Over the past several years, various news articles have been published on the subject matter with a piece written by the editorial board of The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The editorial, written in February 2014, called for the Indians organization to discontinue the use of the Chief Wahoo logo. As per the editorial, “the caricature represents a racially insensitive stereotype of Native Americans.”
Yet, here we are in 2016, and the Indians still use Chief Wahoo as a team logo, but less often. You’d be more likely to find a piece of Indians merchandise that has the block-C as the team’s logo than you would find using Chief Wahoo.
Pickets of Indians Opening Day festivities at the Progressive Field gates in Cleveland by Native Americans have become a yearly event. Every year, there’s renewed interest by Native American groups to try to get the Indians organization to expel the Wahoo logo and Indians name from the franchise.
Last year, Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed may have provided the biggest charge against the Wahoo character. In a story from WOIO’s Cleveland 19 News regarding an April 2015 council meeting, Councilman Reed was quoted as saying, “The Indians are going to continue to feel the pressure. Those individuals want to continue to have that Wahoo are going to continue to feel the pressure until they realize that it’s bad.”
Several years ago, I took the stance of “Chief Wahoo is not insensitive and should stay put as part of the Indians logo,” but now, I take a different stance. I now realize that the Chief Wahoo animation is offensive.
I side with Councilman Reed here. He’s right. What the Indians organization has been saying over the years is that the Chief Wahoo logo is inoffensive, because it’s a cartoon. They don’t realize that there are people who are loudly disagreeing with them. It’s sad that they don’t care.
With political correctness being the way that it is in this day and age, the very notion of having a mascot like Chief Wahoo in 2016 is baffling. Many have seen the outcry over the Washington Redskins name and logo in recent years, and they haven’t changed the name or logo either.
Native Americans have a proud heritage and camaraderie between one another, and the idea that a pro fissional baseball team would disgracefully dishonor Native American heritage with a cartoon is just inappropriate and terrible.
The team should change its name and logo to something acceptable. One that is symbolic with the city of Cleveland.
Still, the team might not entertain any idea of changing the team name and continue to have Chief Wahoo as its logo. As a politically correct society, it’s time to realize that Native Americans are people.