Native Americans Demand Nike “#Dechief” – Stop Selling Grotesque “Chief Wahoo” Products

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Robert Roche, executive director of Cleveland American Indian Eduction Center, confronts fake Indian outisde Progressive Field. Photo Credit: Twitter

Robert Roche, executive director of Cleveland American Indian Eduction Center, confronts fake Indian outisde Progressive Field. Photo Credit: Twitter

EONM will be holding local protests at the Nike World Headquarters this week in Beaverton, Oregon 

PORTLAND, OREGON – Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, a group of Native parents and their allies from across the country are calling on Nike, Inc. to stop selling products that feature the Cleveland Indians’ mascot Chief Wahoo. EONM has launched a Facebook event page “#Dechief Nike Twitterstorm” to trend the Twitter hashtag #Dechief and demand Nike remove the grotesque caricature, Chief Wahoo Nike from its products.

“Dechiefed” hats, jerseys and jackets of Cleveland fans have been featured on social media where photos of team gear with Chief Wahoo removed are posted accompanied by the hashtag #dechiefwahoo.

The groups asks that Nike live up to its dedication to inclusion, “We want it [diversity and inclusion] to drip over everything Nike does!” and follow the Cleveland fans’ lead and “dechief” their own products. It should be noted that even the Cleveland team, itself, has substituted a red letter “C” for Chief Wahoo on its uniforms.

Profiting from Native Mascotry in not being diverse; it is not being inclusive. Selling items, such as a zip-up jacket with the “Chief Wahoo” and the Nike “Swoosh” makes a powerful statement about Nike’s stance, according the leaders of the group.

American Indians have legitimate concerns about the usage of American Indian imgery as mascots by sports teams. Members of EONM note that “Indian mascots” have harmaful effects on humans, a fact affirmed by the American Psychology Association in a 2005 resolution against Native mascots, which noted:

Dr. Stephanie Fryberg

Dr. Stephanie Fryberg

“According to Dr. Stephanie Fryberg, University of Arizona, this appears to have a negative impact on the self-esteem of American Indian children. ‘American Indian mascots are harmful not only because they are often negative, but because they remind American Indians of the limited ways in which others see them. This in turn restricts the number of ways American Indians can see themselves.'”

EONM co-founder Jacqueline Keeler recently wrote in Salon.com in an article titled “My life as a Cleveland Indian: The enduring disgrace of racist sports mascots,”

“A recent tweet by a Cleveland blog called “Cleveland Frowns” went viral and made me think again of what it means to be a “Cleveland Indian.” The tweet featured a photo of a Cleveland Indians baseball fan, Pedro Rodriguez, his face painted red like Chief Wahoo, wearing a cheap, feathered headdress. He is, in this clownish approximation of an American Indian, attempting to speak to an actual American Indian, Robert Roche, a Chiricahua Apache and executive director of the American Indian Education Center in Cleveland. (Roche, a longtime leader in the Native American community and elder.)

Such caricaturing has been promoted by billion-dollar sports franchises that are broadcast nationally every weekend. Nike continues to manufacture and sell gear emblazoned with Chief Wahoo and the Washington football team’s offensive mascot, or with slogans such as FSU’s “Fear the Spear” on them. In America, there is no other ethnic group so casually subjected to such treatment  – we are repulsed as a society by black or Asian caricatures or stereotypes, but Native people are not regarded the same.”

Nike also mass produces “Indian mascot” gear for Florida State University (FSU) whose nickname is the “Seminoles” and while the Seminole Tribe of Florida has worked with FSU since 1972 to soften the Native-racism by FSU, the larger Seminole Nation of Oklahoma has strong objections to the hostile and abusive nickname/mascot. Yo-G (@TheRealYoG) Native American Graphic  Designer and multi-talented artist designed art to bolster support for the Twitter hashtags #StopSellingFear #SpearTheFear.

EONM will be holding local protests at the Nike World Headquarters this week in Beaverton, Oregon and conducting a social media campaign to trend the #Dechief hashtag begun by Cleveland Indians fan Dennis Brown. It is our sincere hope that Nike will fulfill its commitment of inclusion of all people regardless of ethnic background or race and stop selling derogatory mascots like Chief Wahoo.

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  1. Nancy 6 months ago