Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry called on Nike to stop producing and selling merchandise that features the grinning, red-faced, cartoonish image of the Cleveland Indians’s mascot, Chief Wahoo.
In a protest outside Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, on May 1, at least 15 protestors stood in front of the Nike swoosh image and held signs up saying “Nike No Wahoo” and the word “Racist” with Wahoo’s logo above the word. EONM also started a social media campaign on Twitter with the hashtag #Dechief and launched the Facebook event page “#Dechief Nike Twitterstorm.”
“We ask that Nike live up to its dedication to inclusion,” said the groups’ co-founder Jacqueline Keller. “Profiting from Native Mascotry is not being diverse; it is not being inclusive. Selling items, such as a zip-up jacket, that is dually marked with ‘Chief Wahoo’ and the Nike ‘Swoosh’ makes a powerful allied statement about Nike’s stance. It strongly suggests that Nike is excluding legitimate Native American concerns about the derogatory and offensive nature of Native stereotyping.”
Keeler’s group plans to target companies that produce offensive gear and team owners, like Dan Snyder, who allow the use of Native imagery.
“The fact that Nike is selling items that feed into the hostility toward Native Americans is really troubling,” Keeler said in a news release. “Major businesses profit off of caricatures of our people. It would not be acceptable for any other group to be portrayed like this.”
The news release also mentioned that Nike sells branded merchandise for the Washington, D.C., football team and Florida State University, both of which use Native imagery.
On Friday, Nike issued a response to EONM’s protest. Citing in part its commitment to diversity.
“Nike has a contractual partnership with Major League Baseball as the licensing agent for MLB team-approved marks,” Nike said in the statement. “Each MLB team is responsible for choosing their team logos and marks and we understand that the Cleveland Indians are engaging their fans and the local community in conversation concerning their logo.”
“Nike has a long history of supporting the Native American community and we encourage the teams and leagues to engage in constructive dialogue with their communities,” the release said.
The company also runs the N7 Fund which provides grants to Native American and Aboriginal communities to support sports and physical activity programs. Most prominately, the company designed Native inspired footwear, specifically for and with the help of the Native American community.
But EONM says it wants Nike to be more consistent with its commitment to diversity.
Native mascots and logos such as Chief Wahoo lead to skewed perception and bad judgment about contemporary Native Americans, who are multiracial and hail from tribes that have unique histories and laws, Keeler told the Associated Press.
“It hinders people’s ability to see Native Americans as human beings, to know our diverse cultures and our issues,” Keeler said. “All people see is the stereotype of Indians with feathers. It makes it more difficult to accept tribes as they are today and prevents people from getting to know us.”
Studies have shown that Indian mascots and logos have a negatively affect the self-esteem of American Indian children.
“We want to finally make red face unacceptable, the way black and yellow faces are unacceptable,” Keeler said.