A Cleveland Indians fan who was photographed two years ago wearing red face and a faux feather headdress apologized for his actions to a Native American activist Monday.
While the weather stopped players from hitting the field for their season opener, or as they coined it “Tribe Opener,” it did not stop 60 Native American activists and allies from participating in the yearly protest of the game in Cleveland, Ohio.
Two years ago, a photo went viral of Cleveland-based American Indian Movement activist Robert Roche and Indians fan Pedro Rodriguez who had painted his face red and donned a fake headdress while wearing a T-shirt that read, “Fear the Chief.” Rodriguez claimed he “was honoring” Roche.
This year, Rodriguez would ask Roche’s forgiveness and admit he was wrong from dressing in red face.
“He approached me and apologized,” Roche told ICTMN. “It shocked me. I never expected [that]. He said he was an avid fan, but he was sorry and he understood where I was coming from now.”
Rodriguez said he would no longer use red face, but would still support the team and their mascot.
Every year since the 1970s, Natives have protested the team’s name and mascot Chief Wahoo. Indians fans are known to wear red face dressed as Wahoo.
“We used to do it weekly, but right now people are so busy we try to protest the team once a month,” Roche said.
This year would also show a turn in the way some Indians fans viewed their own actions. The organization announced last week they would “minimize” their use of its Chief Wahoo logo.
Every year, waves of protests grow demanding U.S. teams to stop using Native American mascots and slurs, and despite mounting tension, teams like the Cleveland Indians and the Washington NFL team refuse to change their name or mascots. The organizations maintain they are honoring Native American’s with their team names and their mascots.