Home Opinion OPINION: Goodbye and good riddance to Chief Wahoo

OPINION: Goodbye and good riddance to Chief Wahoo

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Cleveland Indians

While some are unhappy with the Cleveland Indians’ decision to remove controversial Chief Wahoo from its uniforms, opinion writer Tim Zelina says the MLB team made the right call.

The owners of Cleveland’s baseball team made the proper decision to remove Chief Wahoo as the Cleveland Indians logo, closing this chapter in Cleveland sports history. Of course, such a move cannot be made without hordes of sports fans trampling each other to justify such a comically racist caricature.

Chief Wahoo has been a source of embarrassment for many Cleveland natives, while others have preferred misplaced sentimental nostalgia to justify its usage in a national sports league. To those of us who may find the logo somewhat tasteless, there is little reason to take pride in this part of the Cleveland Indians’ history.  

One must make note of why the logo is offensive to many to understand the decision to remove it. It may seem innocuous to those who do not understand the power symbols like this hold in perpetuating racist sentiments.

One must start by pointing out that the logo for the Cleveland Indians is a red-faced Chief with a huge nose and feather cap. “Reds” was a common slur used to dehumanize indigenous Americans, which makes its usage as his skin color particularly abhorrent. Its tone deaf racism would be borderline comical if people weren’t so insistent on defending it.

This is like making your logo a Chinese man, then coloring him bright yellow, and giving him exaggerated slant eyes and a cheesy smile. He may look friendly, but he’s still being treated as a non-human caricature, not a real person. If Native Americans are to be portrayed positively, it must be done so in a humanizing, real way, not as some goofy oddity for kids to laugh at.

Supporters of Wahoo have claimed that because Wahoo looks joyful and happy, he is therefore non-offensive. One could use the same line of thinking to justify the racist black-face minstrel shows that were so popular in the early 20th century. These did not depict African Americans as evil or violent; instead, they were shown as happy go-lucky and comical. Yet these depictions were no better than the ones that portrayed them inherently negatively, as they were used to dehumanize African Americans, treating them as mere oddities to enjoy at passing glance rather than equals to work together with.

Perhaps one may find it nitpicky or over the top for Native Americans to take issue with this logo. Ask yourself this: how much does it really effect the team to remove this logo? If a historically oppressed minority is so vocal and so uncomfortable with being portrayed this way, is it such a big deal to just adjust your mascot to something less of a caricature? Why is it so important to retain Wahoo, when logos and even team names and locations can change so much over the years? It’s time that, for better or for worse, we close the door on Wahoo, and embrace a logo that Indians fans of any ethnicity can wear proudly when they win the next World Series.

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