The quiet protest movement among Cleveland baseball fans.
by Remedios Varo
Amidst all of the recent controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins and team owner Daniel Snyder’s obstinate refusal to even consider changing the team’s name, it’s easy to forget there is another major pro sports squad with a questionable moniker and a legitimately offensive mascot: the Cleveland Indians.
For those who don’t know, the mascot for the Indians is a red-skinned caricature of a Native American named Chief Wahoo. Chief Wahoo was created in the late 1940s by a teenage draftsman commissioned by then Indians owner Bill Veeck. The symbol has been openly disputed since at least the 1980s, and Native Americans from around the country have gathered in Cleveland on Opening Day to protest outside the Indians’ stadium since the early 1990s.
However, a new form of protest against Chief Wahoo has been visibly gaining around: the practice of “de-Chiefing,” or removing the mascot from one’s Indians apparel and gear. De-Chiefing has been done for the past few years, although its practitioners have been generally under the radar … until recently. Back in March, an Indians fan named Dennis Brown (at left) removed the Wahoo patch from his replica jersey and tweeted a picture of it, saying, “It wasn’t easy but I de-chiefed my [Indians] road jersey. Ready for Goodyear tomorrow.” Brown has since gained national attention and more fans are following his lead.
The Indians have declined to comment on the practice of de-Chiefing, but the team has made the Wahoo image noticeably less prominent in recent years, going so far as to replace the mascot as the primary logo on team uniforms. Unfortunately, despite this seemingly silent show of solidarity, team president Mark Shapiro stated as recently as last year that the antiquated mascot will not be done away with any time soon.
Regardless of Shapiro’s attitude, it is promising that more Cleveland fans — and not just the Native American ones — are starting to voice their opposition to the Wahoo caricature. Change might be hopeless in Washington as long as Snyder is owner, but perhaps the Indians as a team will eventually de-Chief themselves altogether.
Images via espn.go.com.