On the Cleveland Indians and other racist sports mascots

by guest contributor BB, originally published at Brady Braves

As I sit here and watch the men’s basketball teams from Texas A&M and Memphis battle for a spot in the elite 8, i am reminded that the Cleveland “Indians” baseball club has been invited (along w/the st. louis cardinals) to play in Major League Baseball’s inaugural Civil Rights Game in Memphis on march 31, 2007. so, here’s a game devised to recognize and to remember “the home of the National Civil Rights Museum and the city where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.” And mlb invites the “Indians”? (and invites them to a city that’s part of the “trail of tears”?) The playing goes beyond a sport when “Indians,” led by their “chief wahoo,” are involved. We’re talking playing “Indian”; we’re talking redface. But heck, why not make it an all anti-real “Indian” day by inviting the Atlanta “Braves,” too? And since the game is in Memphis to call attention to African American civil rights, why not change the name of Cleveland “Indians” to Cleveland “Blacks”? Or as artist Oscar Arredondo suggests, the Cleveland “Negroes”?

So many folks still not getting it, eh? Sports fans’ claims to honorable intentions of the use of “Indian” imagery, intentions of being pro-”Indian,” do not dismiss nor outweigh the disrespectful effects that many native peoples experience. An example of one of those effects? Ironically, many pro-”Indian” mascot/logo/image critics verbally attack the real Native peoples who call for the eradication of such “Indian” representations. so, those critics honor their “Indian” images and “Indian” objects, their “Indians,” but they disrespect and dislike the real natives?

Reflecting back to a protest years ago of the University Of Illinois’ mascot “Chief Illiniwek,” Tim Giago (Oglala Sioux) writes, “I joined the protest one year as a newspaper reporter. I walked near the protestors taking pictures as they marched. I was once again overwhelmed by the degree of hatred aimed at these protestors. Profanity such as ‘F- you squaws’ or ‘Get the hell out of here you drunken Indians,’ rained down on the protestors on their march to the stadium. My God, what a proud tradition! How can a people exude such hatred for real Indians while honoring a phony chief?”

And check out what Cleveland’s general manager Mark Shapiro said in response to his “Indians” being invited to Memphis: “The history of civil rights needs to be honored. The pursuit of civil rights, for compassion and for tolerance, needs to be fought for not only in our game, but also in our country and in our own organization. It’s that belief system and that history that is the root of our pride and why we are participating in this game.”

Sounds like “our country” and “our pride” isn’t about including indigenous peoples. sounds like “compassion” and “tolerance” aren’t to be shown to indigenous peoples. Sounds like Mr. Shapiro isn’t used to being objectified, dehumanized, commercialized, exploited, and all else that accompanies being associated with a ridiculously racist image known as “wahoo.”