The recent controversy over the NFLs Washington Redskins team name has spurred on debate whether all sports names and mascots that convey negative imagery on a race or ethnicity of people should be eliminated. Recently the United State Patent and Trademark Office recently ruled to cancel the trademark protection that has been afforded the Redskins name over the years. In doing so, the decision reached based on the word Redskins was “Disparaging to Native Americans” has intensified the sports dialogue more in favor of the time having come to change the franchise name.
A similar case exists in Cleveland where the team’s long-standing logo, Chief Wahoo has been the subject of protesting this past season. Native American groups have gathered outside of Progressive Field this season to draw attention to the issue and communicate their message: “Chief Wahoo Must Go”.
While the name Indians is not the point of contention as Redskins is in Washington, their Cleveland red-faced Indian logo has been a lightning rod of controversy in recent seasons, only increasing in visibility in light of the Washington Redskins insistence their team name should remain.
There are many sports teams whose names are reflective of Native Americans. The NFL has the Kansas City Chiefs; MLB has the Atlanta Braves while the NHL has the Chicago Blackhawks. There has been concern over the Atlanta fans’ use of the “tomahawk chop” during games, although the continued use of the gesture remains to this day. The Blackhawks name and logo has not come under fire as other professional sports teams thus far, perhaps as a result of the more generalized depiction of a Native American chief.
In Cleveland the Indians have never admitted it, but they appear to be making a subtle effort these past few seasons to lessen the visibility of the Chief Wahoo logo, replacing it with the plain letter “C” on their hats for many games. While the logo is present on their shirt along with occasional use on game hats, their efforts indicate the team is far more open to making a change than their football counterparts in the Nation’s Capital.
If team and fan interest remains with keeping the Chief Wahoo logo, a simple solution to the problem would be for the Indians to propose a new logo, one that is respectful of Native Americans and sheds a more positive light on a group of people that have a long history of oppression dating back to the 1800s.
There are those that do not share such lineage, and such debate may seem more trivial. For those who are and have been impacted by such unintended initial use of the characterizations, the matter carries much weight. For these reasons, it makes perfect sense for teams to conform their approach today as they have been forced to in years and eras past.
At the end of the day; what matters most is the fan support of their local team, not so much the colors, words or imagery on the uniforms.
Scott Duhaime is a New England Sports fan and former resident, transplanted to Ohio. Despite his new address, his passion for sports hasn’t dimished, as best evidenced by his creation and continued contributions to Banner Day Boston and Banner Day Boston Radio .
Wikipedia.org: Native American Mascot Controversies
Fox News: Trademark board rules against Washington Redskin’s name