Robert Roche, a Chiricahua Apache and director of the American Indian Education Center, told ICTMN that he will file a federal lawsuit against the Cleveland Indians organization challenging that the team's name and Chief Wahoo logo are racist.
Roche said that the lawsuit will be filed at the end of July and will seek $9 billion in damages.
“People have asked me why is it so high,” Roche said. “It’s for 100 years of racism.”
“It sets the tone of how people think of us, and it dehumanizes us,” Roche told ICTMN about the logo.
The lawsuit claims that the Cleveland organization hasn’t done anything to help Native Americans despite profiting off the Chief Wahoo logo.
“They never approached the community to ask how do you feel about us using your name as a mascot?” Roche said.
Roche, who is a former director of the Cleveland American Indian Movement, has protested against the Cleveland logo for decades. In 1995, he led a lawsuit against the team when they were banned from protesting in front of the stadium during home games.
“We were told ‘you can’t demonstrate here, it’s private property.’ Well, taxpayers paid for the area.” Roche said. And they let them continue.
Supporters of the Chief Wahoo logo have brushed the suit under the table by saying that only a small of people are offended by the logo.
“If just a small amount of people are against it, than I think you're doing a disservice to people that like it,” Bob Rosen, president of the Wahoo Club, told CBS News. “I'm not insensitive to the issue, but our 1,650 members of the Wahoo Club, anytime we have a Wahoo Club item they put it up they love it,” Rosen said. “Can you imagine the baseball team in this city not being called the Cleveland Indians? I can't picture that.”
The Indians, however, have been gradually phasing out the Chief Wahoo logo over the last few years, replacing it with the letter "C" logo.
“If you are sponsoring this, you are literally sponsoring racism,” Roche said. “Is that what you want to do?” Roche also said that Wahoo does not honor Natives.
“It’s a racist, grotesque image of a race of people; and they’re not fooling us that ‘we are honoring you.’ We’re saying, don’t honor us, man.”
Correction: Originally the story said that a $90 billion lawsuit was being pursued, but that was incorrect. The correct amount is $9 billion.