It was April 11—Opening Day—at Progressive Field in Ohio when a group gathered outside the stadium there to protest the embattled name and logo of the Cleveland Indians. It didn’t take long before fans of the team, and even a man passing by in a Dallas Cowboys windbreaker, ripped into the group with profanities and dismissive utterances.
“Save the chief!” a woman yells in a video posted on cleveland.com.
“It’s a caricature! Get over it!” the man in the Cowboys jacket yells.
“What’s wrong with you people!? Get a job!” another shouts.
“They need a hobby—like stringing beads,” a man says as he passes by.
At one point in the video, a man in a Cleveland Indians jersey and jacket begins to gesticulate in a masturbatory manner while he sings the ‘tomahawk chop’ song.
The tense exchange between fans and protestors comes on the heels of a statement by a Major League Spokesman who told The New York Times on April 12 that the league’s commissioner is laying more pressure on the ball club to drop its Chief Wahoo logo.
MLB Spokesman, Pat Courtney, told the Times that Commissioner, Rob Manfred, has a “desire to transition away from the Chief Wahoo logo … We have specific steps in an identified process and are making progress. We are confident that a positive resolution will be reached that will be good for the game and the club.’’
On Thursday, Change the Mascot, a group of Native American leaders and allies working to repeal the name of the Washington NFL team, commended Manfred for his call to move away from the Chief Wahoo caricature.
“It is very encouraging to hear that Commissioner Manfred is willing to stand up and take real action to help eliminate the damaging mascotization of Native Americans in professional sports,” Change the Mascot leaders Jackie Pata, director of the National Congress of American Indians Executive, and Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation Representative, said in a joint press release.
Pata and Halbritter said they hope NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will take a lesson from Manfred’s playbook and work with the Washington NFL team to repeal its name and mascot.
“Commissioner Manfred’s actions to better Major League Baseball should serve as a wakeup call to National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, who can and should press for ending the use of the dictionary-defined R-word slur by the Washington NFL team. This derogatory epithet–used to demean Native Americans for centuries–should not be publicly used and marketed in 2017 without consequence,” the press release reads.
For many Native Americans, abandoning the Chief Wahoo mascot and logo is just a start. Opponents say the team must also change its name or fans will continue to dehumanize Native Americans at games by wearing fake headdresses and painting their faces red.
Last season, team owner, Paul Dolan, said they have “no plans to get rid of Chief Wahoo, it is part of our history and legacy,” Cleveland.com reported last April. Then, Dolan went onto say the team does “have empathy for those who take issue with it.”
“We have gone to the Block C as our primary mark,” Dolan said. “Clearly, we are using it more heavily than we are the Chief Wahoo logo.”
The Cleveland team lost to the Chicago Cubs at the World Series last year.