Chief Wahoo (1947- ), pictured right, is the American Indian chief who is the trademark of the Cleveland Indians, an American baseball team. Some say it is racist. The NAACP, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and most Native American leaders want him dropped.
Even the name “Indians” is based on a racist stereotype: “In place of the Naps”, said the Cleveland Leader in 1915 when the name was changed, “we’ll have the Indians, on the warpath all the time, and eager for scalps to dangle at their belts.”
In 1928 they started wearing a picture of an Indian on their uniforms. In 1947 along came Chief Wahoo.
Compare Chief Wahoo to the trademark for Coon Chicken Inn, which comes from the same period in history and was still in use as late as the 1950s. Then compare it to the current trademark of another sports team which uses an Indian image, the Chicago Blackhawks:
It is bad enough to use an Indian image at all in a country that has practised genocide against them. As the New York Daily News pointed out, it would be like a football team in Germany calling themselves the Hamburg Jews or something. But on top of that comes this image of Chief Wahoo.
After all, what if the Cleveland team had called itself the Cleveland Coons and used a coon image like the one above? And what if fans came to the game in blackface? Who would put up with it? Yet some Cleveland fans come to the game in redface:
According to a Sports Illustrated opinion poll from 2002 most people see Indian names and images on sports team as not being racist:
Although most Native American activists and tribal leaders consider Indian team names and mascots offensive, neither Native Americans in general nor a cross section of U.S. sports fans agree.
It is unclear where Sports Illustrated found enough Native Americans to poll or why whites, who make up most of “a cross section of U.S. sport fans”, would be a good judge of how offensive it is.
Some point out that white people are used on trademarks too, like the one for the New England Patriots:
How this is not like Chief Wahoo:
- It is a picture with some dignity.
- It was presumably created by a white person.
- It is not one of the few images of white people that are seen nationwide. Unlike Native Americans, whites have the power to create whatever images they want of themselves and have them seen all across the country.
- Whites are mostly not seen as members of a race, as “white” people – but just as people. That is not true for people of colour in America.
Cleveland should go back to what they had before: a stylized “C”. After all, letters are good enough for the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, who, unlike Cleveland, have won a World Series or two within the past 60 years.
Thanks to alwaysright101 for suggesting this topic.
- The history of the Coon Chicken Inn – at the excellent Jim Crow Museum.
- race and representation:
- Race in America
- The term “redskin”