These protests happen every spring. For anyone unfamiliar with the Chief Wahoo logo, I’m talking about opposition to the grinning, toothy, American Indian character sporting a single feather. Still, much like Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish Logo of a raised fist leprechaun ready to take on the world, Chief Wahoo is beloved among loyal fans.
While the organization is trying to phase out the Chief, opponents want it banned. Claiming it’s not only demeaning and racist, they insist a new logo be created. But they never say of what. So adamant is their quest to remove the Chief, they have protested World Series games whenever the tribe’s been involved and just about every home opener for what seems like eons.
Proponents are just as stubborn in retaining their long established baseball logo. They love tradition and claim they’ve never viewed the Chief as a racial image, only as a logo for a local baseball team that was named after a Native American. They resent being labeled racist just because they’re a fan of the Cleveland Indians and Chief Wahoo.
The team’s name is a tribute to an American Indian. In keeping with that theme, to what would they change it? A feather? An ear of maize? A pair of moccasins? An arrowhead? A wigwam? A loin cloth?
So vocal have the opponents of Chief Wahoo been, the baseball club’s powers-that-be finally relented. In some cases they eliminated the logo and, in others, replaced it with a block letter "C." Still it exists.
Opponents have even succeeded in gathering the attention of Major League Baseball and its commissioner, Rob Manfred. Ongoing talks with owners focus on the Cleveland Indians eventually eliminating the Wahoo image without doing damage to their organization or especially to loyal fans who love the Wahoo image.
It’s known the team was named after star player, Louis Sockalexis, who played for the club in the late nineteenth century. He was a Creek and the first American Indian to play major League baseball. The name was intended to be an honor, not a mockery. Over the years the tribe’s had many names. The worst of the old players’ league franchise was the Infants. Of 130 games their only season, they lost 75.
In the newly formed American League, they were called ‘Blues.’ In 1902 their name was ‘Broncos.’ The next year they finally chose ‘Naps’ after future Hall-of-Fame second baseman, Nap Lajoie. However, when Nap left in 1914, they needed a new name and the following season they played under the name, ‘Indians,’ in tribute to Soxalexis.
Some feel political correctness goes too far. They say the Chief represents no one in particular and opponents have too much time on their hands with nothing else to criticize. Others think it doesn’t go far enough.
As a young lad, I was raised a few miles inside Pennsylvania. Still, the farm was located within the Chesapeake Bay Water Basin. As a result, we were influenced by Maryland seafood; oysters, bluefish and especially blue hard and soft shell crabs. As a result, we were fans of the Baltimore Orioles.
A number of years ago the Orioles got caught up in the political correctness craze that was sweeping the nation and, to the snickering abuse of nearly everyone, they changed their logo from a caricature of an Oriole to the image of a real one. The change lasted about as long as a seventh game World Series lead lasts for the tribe in the bottom of the ninth. Now they’re back to their original caricature image of an Oriole.
Could the same happen to the tribe? Who knows? After all, this is Cleveland sports we’re discussing. It’s where just about anything can happen . . . and usually does.
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