In a move that probably will serve to make defenders of Chief Wahoo dig in even deeper against any changes, a state senator from Ohio has introduced legislation encouraging the Cleveland Indians to drop their controversial cartoon logo and to get a new team nickname.
WHEREAS, A team named the Indians, or one that carries a mascot of a stereotypical Native American caricature, such as Chief Wahoo, is an affront to Native Americans; and
WHEREAS, An evolving sense of decency and respect demand that the Cleveland Indians change their nickname and mascot; now therefore be it
RESOLVED, That the General Assembly of the State of Ohio encourages the Cleveland Indians baseball franchise to retire its nickname and mascot and to adopt a new nickname and a new mascot free of racial insensitivity; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the Clerk of the Senate transmit duly authenticated copies of this resolution to the current owner of the Cleveland Indians baseball franchise, and to the news media of Ohio.
Discontent over the Chief logo is not new, and the Indians have appeared, in recent seasons, to marginalize the Chief's presence in certain ways. The push to change the team's nickname has gotten more prominent in recent times, with the American Indian Education Center threatening a $9 billion lawsuit, and now Kearney's potential legislation. As a story by the Associated Press points out, those in charge of the baseball team don't seem to be moved:
At an unrelated Thursday news conference, Indians President Mark Shapiro said the Chief Wahoo mascot "represents the heritage of the team and the ballpark" and will remain in place. He added that the team will continue to build and promote the use of the block "C."
Those comments are consistent with what Shapiro has said in the past: "The Chief's not going anywhere." The Chief might represent the team's heritage as Shapiro claims, but the only place anyone has even seen an Indian who looks like Wahoo is when a Native American is being mocked in popular culture.
Continuing to get lawyers and politicians involved might shine a light on the issue. It might prompt the team to take another look and ask if it's worth it to keep "traditions" that many of its own fans find offensive and/or racist. Then again, it will just make those who endorse the Chief stand their ground even more resolutely, only making everyone more frustrated. Who likes to listen to lawyers and politicians (or even writers) these days?
Chief Wahoo still sells shirts and jerseys and caps. Even though he's not nearly as old as Cleveland's franchise, and you'd think that he could be replaced with something that would sell just as well while offending no one, the fact is people are used to him. And many of those people can't seem to connect how flushing the Chief, and even "Indians" as a nickname, could be a symbolic step toward righting the injustices Native Americans have faced. They just want their Chief and to be left alone.
Kearney, who introduced the legislation to coincide with the Indians and Cincinnati Reds playing each other this week, says he doesn't expect any major changes to happen quickly. For one, Ohio's legislature is on a break right now. He just wants the dialogue to keep going, even though it just sounds like two sides yelling past each other more than than it does a conversartion.
An aside: Kearney's seat in the ninth legistlative district used to belong to Mark Mallory, who used to be Cincy's mayor and also is famous for throwing perhaps the worst ceremonial first pitch in major league history:
Juuuuuuust a bit outside.
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