Cleveland Indians Fall Prey to Native American Activists

The two-time World Series champs will retire their Chief Wahoo mascot after this season. (Image via Mark Hodgins)

I remember in 1991 when the Atlanta Braves made the playoffs for the first time in nine years. My family would go tailgate at Fulton County Stadium, and that was the first place I encountered protests against the Braves by American Indian activists.

These protests against sports teams using Indians as mascots rear their ugly heads from time to time, and this year, they’ve been able to claim a scalp. (Too obvious?) The Cleveland Indians will stop using their seven-decade old Chief Wahoo mascot on team uniforms and stadium signage next year.

MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred has pressured the team to get rid of the cartoon logo for at least a year, and in a remarkably arrogant press release, he said that the Indians “ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball.”

Naturally, Indian activists are happy with the decision, but not so much with the year’s delay:

Phillip Yenyo, the executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio, cheered the decision as, “another step in the right direction,” but lamented that it is being put off for a year.

“Why wait?” he said. “If you are going to go this far and get rid of it, why not do it now? All they are doing is testing it out, because the name has to go, too. The nickname absolutely has to go. It’s not just the logo.”

This isn’t a sudden thing; the Cleveland Indians have minimized the logo on uniforms and throughout the apparently aptly named Progressive Field in recent years, but Chief Wahoo, who first appeared as the Indians mascot in 1948, will still be available on merchandise at the stadium and in stores throughout the area – but not online.

Some activists would like to see the team go so far as to get rid of the Indians nickname altogether. Moves like this toward other teams have met with mixed results: some colleges have changed their team names to move away from American Indian stereotypes, while the Washington Redskins have dug their heels in, citing the support of run-of-the-mill Native Americans.

The question remains: how far will the American Indian lobby go to put a stop to Indian mascots – even relatively benign ones? I guess we’ll see how far they push teams like Cleveland; now that the Indians have given an inch, will the activists only settle for a mile?

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Maybe Cleveland Cowboys since the Indians don't like the association? I'm guessing cowboys won't put up a stink. They haven't in Dallas thus far...


Native Activists don't fool me for one second. They don't give a flying flip about Indians. If they did, they'd be lobbying to abolish the Land in Trust system that is keeping Native Americans in the 1800's. But that's not what they're campaigning against, they're campaigning against sports mascots and white-washing in films.


They might as well go ahead and change the name too. They have already backed down, so now it is just a matter of time. The activists smell blood in the water. Now they will just pay to change the branding over and over again. The whole argument is stupid. Mascots are chosen because of their admirable qualities (bravery, fierceness, courage, etc.) or for some historical significance. Mascots named after Native Americans should be considered an honor, as it is a nod to positive qualities that you want your team to be. Chief Osceola, from the Florida State Seminoles is probably the finest mascot that exists. Nothing tops riding the horse onto the field and tossing down the flaming spear. The pearl clutching is just ridiculous.