Friday, April 11, 2014

Ten Points on Chief Wahoo

10) Something is different this year. Never in 38 years of Cleveland fandom have I seen so much written and said about Chief Wahoo on such a broad scale, and it hasn't subsided the way it usually does after the Indians home opener. The reason? Wait for point #2.

9) Part of the reason is that, prior to the start of the season, the Cleveland Plain Dealer came out against Wahoo. Finally. Some have called it an empty gesture. Maybe, but I'll go with 'better late than never' for Cleveland's most prominent daily paper.

8) As usual, Wahoo has his legion of ardent defenders. Right now you can find them massing at a Facebook page called Keep Chief Wahoo. Check it out, if you care to sample some of their rhetoric.

7) Speaking of rhetoric, here are some highlights that have been directed at yours truly:

Classy: I love Chief Wahoo, you effing creep. When I walk to the stadium past the protesters I finger that love right in their faces.

Patriotic: Gouge your eyes out, plug your ears, sit on your hands, and stop whining. An American soldier died so that you could have the right to your opinion. But, if something else is bothering you... don't let the door hit you in the ass, leave the country, see what happens when you bitch elsewhere

Confusing: you think Chief Wahoo is racist, but you support Gay marriages? How sick are YOU? What an a-hole!

I've also been called the 'PC Police,' 'libtard' and the 'Liberal PC Taliban.' And yet I'm probably like a lot of fans who don't like Wahoo. That is to say: I like to watch baseball and drink beer. And that probably makes me like a lot of fans who do like Wahoo. So, before dropping your next ad hominem comment, whatever position on the issue you take, consider that the person on the receiving end is probably pretty OK, and likely just wants to get down to talking about baseball.

That said, when you see that sophomoric radio loudmouths like Bob Frantz and Chuck Booms are on the opposite side of the issue, that's how you know you're on the side of Right.

6) If the team was new, Major League Baseball would never sanction the name Cleveland Indians or the Wahoo mascot, just like it would never sanction Cleveland Negroes and Chief Sambo:

Cleveland Negroes - Not OK

Cleveland Indians - Somehow OK

5) One of the most common defenses of Wahoo you hear is 'It's just a CARTOON!' Well, that cartoon is a product of the 1940s, just like this cartoon. If you don't think they come from the same tradition of dehumanization, you are fooling yourself.

4) Hall of Fame outfielder Larry Doby, the first African American player in the American League, the man whom is often cited as an example of how progressive the Indians have been in their history, once likened Chief Wahoo to 'minstrel shows.'

3) The Cleveland Indians have long maintained that the name Indians and the Wahoo mascot are meant to honor Louis Sockalexis, a member of the Penobscot Nation who played for the Cleveland Spiders from 1897-1899. Even if that story were true (it is not), the Penobscot Nation formally requested that the team stop using the Wahoo mascot in 2000. Their resolution was adopted by the Maine state legislature in 2009. The team has upheld this tradition of honor by ignoring the resolution.

2) By now you've seen this picture, taken by Cleveland Frowns on opening day, of Indians fan Pedro Rodriguez and Native American Robert Roche, who has been protesting Wahoo since the 1970s.

This photo was presaged with startling accuracy in 2002:

The Roche/Rodriguez encounter is a game changer, and has exploded the issue on a truly national level. And you have to wonder if the redfacers, in their determination to celebrate the mascot, have unwittingly hastened its demise. Because, seriously, what is the difference?:

Not OK

Somehow OK

Not OK

Somehow OK
1) This issue has become an embarrassment to the Dolan family, the team and the city. It really doesn't matter how emphatically the pro-Wahoo crowd insists that 'it's about baseball' and 'tradition,' because no amount of baseball or tradition can excuse an almost 70-year-old visual slur.

1-A) When the team re-brands, and it will, I plan to put my money where my mouth is by buying tickets and a piece of merchandise that I can be proud to let my son wear. My son, who is half Venezuelan and certainly has Native American blood in his veins.

Change the logo.

And change the name while you're at it.

Get more on Wahoo from:

Cleveland Scene

Waiting for Next Year

The New York Times

Keith Olbermann

Uni Watch

Welcome to Falling Rock National Park

Idle Musings

Special thanks to Cleveland Frowns for the use of the photo and the relentless energy devoted to this cause.