The Cleveland Indians announced Monday that starting in 2019, they would no longer use the “Chief Wahoo” mark on uniforms.
The question now is; what took so long and why is the logo the only thing going? What fascination do American sports teams and fans have with using Native Americans as a mascot? Imagine the uproar if a new professional sports team popped up calling themselves the Minnesota Mexicans.
The point is simple, as a Native American, I am proud of my ancestral heritage. My ancestors were forcibly removed from their homes in what most people know as the “Trail of Tears.” It’s believed that around 4,000 of the Cherokee people died of cold, hunger and disease during this forced migration to what was termed “Indian Territory.”
I was fortunate enough to grow up in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, also known as the Capital city of the Cherokee Nation. I have studied and understand the struggles that my ancestors faced. I state these things to make a point.
The Chief Wahoo mark was derogatory. Cleveland did the right thing in doing away with it. However, I would ask the organization to take it a step further. Do away with the name. Respect the lives that were lost at the hand of President Andrew Jackson.
While my pleading will likely go unheard and simply pushed aside, at least Major League Baseball is making positive progress, unlike the NFL. Roger Goodell and Washington owner Dan Snyder continue to be tone-deaf towards a mascot change, with Roger Goodell even going on the record yesterday on the Golic and Wingo Show stating, “I don’t see him changing that perspective [on a potential Washington nickname change].”
I stand to honor my ancestors and don’t believe they should be used as a mark of entertainment.
The Change the Mascot campaign is one that I support. I hope you will take a few minutes to visit the campaign page, and do your own research into the history of Native Americans in the United States. Those two things might just help you better understand my perspective and the viewpoint of other Native Americans.
The Change the Mascot campaign released the following excerpt after the Cleveland release Monday.
“Cleveland’s decision should finally compel the Washington football team to make the same honorable decision. For too long, people of color have been stereotyped with these kinds of hurtful symbols — and no symbol is more hurtful than the football team in the nation’s capital using a dictionary-defined racial slur as its team name. Washington Owner Dan Snyder needs to look at Cleveland’s move and then look in the mirror and ask whether he wants to be forever known as the most famous purveyor of bigotry in modern sports, or if he wants to finally stand on the right side of history and change his team’s name. We hope he chooses the latter.”
Native Americans are people, not mascots, and it is time for this to end. While I applaud this move, more must be done.