There has been a lull in calls for the Cleveland Indians organization to remove Chief Wahoo from uniforms. For this reason, I think now (or in the very near future) is the best time to make a change. It’s time to ditch the Chief, as well as the offensive moniker of “Indians” once and for all.
For the past few years, the Washington Redskins organization has endured incessant calls for a change to their offensive name and logo. The name “Redskin” is obviously offensive to Native Americans, and many believe that the best course of action would be a total rebrand of the team. Unfortunately, owner Dan Snyder has taken a very strong stance against any such change, claiming the tradition o the team should not be changed. After a long fight, the federal government revoked the copyright on the team’s name, logo, etc. Snyder has continued to do his best George Wallace impression, and has held a hard line. While the issue is being tied up in litigation, the writing is on the wall: the name will be changed.
In Cleveland, we have avoided the national spotlight on the racist logo front because of Snyder’s antics, but when Snyder finally bends to the will of modern society, rest assured that the Eye of Sauron will shift to Cleveland. The Indians will be the new racist morons who refuse to accept social change, will be made a mockery of, and will be forced into change. In order to avoid this embarrassment, the organization should change the team name pre-emptively. This sends the message that (for once) Cleveland is at the forefront of change. We were the team that realized our name and logo were racist and made the change before we were forced to. It also sends a powerful message to the Redskins and other similarly named teams in college and professional sports that this issue doesn’t have to be hard.
Generally, the idea of a team name change, or any change in a team’s branding at all is met with extreme resistance. “Why fix what isn’t broken,” or “Why change what we’ve always done,” people will ask. Think of all the pushback the Browns got when they changed their logo to be 3 shades brighter. Imagine the further pushback once they unveil their new uniforms (which I’m sure will be wildly different than the old ones). To be clear: many people will be unhappy with an Indians name change. People love to be able to easily remember the past. Seeing Chief Wahoo on Indians hats may give your dad or your grandfather very passionate memories of going to the ballpark as kids and watching the Tribe. Maybe the Chief even evokes similar memories for you. Taking the Chief off of the uniform or changing the name may force you to try a little harder to evoke those memories. You’ll have to tell your children, “the Cleveland baseball team used to be the Indians when I was your age, now they are called the ____________.” This is a scary thought for some people. They don’t want to feel old or feel like fans are abandoning the past. This name change would in fact be the opposite of an abandonment of the past. It would immortalize the Chief and Indians teams of the past, while ushering in a new era of success and tradition. People will also be unhappy about having to purchase new team merchandise. They will feel like all of the apparel and memorabilia with Chief Wahoo or the Indians name will become obsolete. This argument is a weak one, as I can go to Lids right now and purchase a hat with just about any team logo from any time period I can think of. Another common (and ridiculous) argument is that the name and logo are not offensive, and that we are “honoring” Native Americans. Look at Chief Wahoo, and then Google Image search “Native American,” and tell me if our logo, a caricature, is honorable. If it were you who was being “honored,” in this way, would you appreciate it? If it were any other race, would society find it offensive? Just because white folks don’t think its offensive doesn’t mean its not offensive.
Frankly, I’m tired of Cleveland being a laughingstock. I’m tired of always being the butt of jokes, the place that is behind the times. For once, I want to be the city, or the team that gets out in front of a problem and is innovative in finding a solution. Indians management: ditch the Chief and help bring our team into a new era of pride and success.