Chief Wahoo: A Mascot for the Lie of White Supremacy

Commentary

Published January 30, 2018

On Monday, the Cleveland Indians released a statement that they will remove the logo of Chief Wahoo from their on-field uniforms beginning with the 2019 season. Many people on social media congratulated Major League Baseball for its commitment to inclusivity and diversity and thanked the owner of the Cleveland Indians for making this change. I do not share in those sentiments and here is why.

Owner Paul Dolan only committed to remove Chief Wahoo after the 2018 season has completed.

The nation was rightfully outraged that Michigan State University and US Gymnastics ignored, for years, the voices of women and underage girls who reported that Larry Nassar had been touching them inappropriately during his examinations and treatments.  The pubic was outraged that many studios, friends, co-workers and executives were complicit, through their silence, in the long pattern of abuse and sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein. Sexual assault is unacceptable. Period. And those who bury it, ignore it, and turn the other way are also complicit in it.

Mark Charles

When their actions came to light, Larry Nassar and Harvey Weinstein were not merely asked to phase out their behavior, nor were they simply told to promise to cease their behavior at a later, more convenient date. No, they were immediately removed from their positions, shunned by the public, and confronted by those they abused.

White America has a long-standing history of violence and racism against Native peoples. Discovery, stolen lands, broken treaties, ethnic cleansing, genocide, boarding schools, massacres, sexual assault, mass incarceration, reservations, #DAPL, and the list goes on, and on, and on.  The problem is much deeper than a mere logo or a simple mascot.  Native mascots in sports are dehumanizing caricatures rooted in our nation’s racist history, mascots for the lie of white supremacy.

Looked at from this perspective, the statements put out by Commissioner Manfred and owner Paul Dolan border on the absurd.

Commissioner Manfred: “During our constructive conversations, Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a longstanding attachment to the logo and its place in the history of the team. Nonetheless, the club ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball, and I appreciate Mr. Dolan’s acknowledgement that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course.”

Paul Dolan: “While we recognize many of our fans have a longstanding attachment to Chief Wahoo, I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.”

If you still don’t see it, try reading the statements again, this time with the implicit racial bias made explicit.

Commissioner Manfred: “During our constructive conversations, Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a longstanding attachment to the white supremacist logo and its place in the history of the team. Nonetheless, the club ultimately agreed with my position that the white supremacist logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball, and I appreciate Mr. Dolan’s acknowledgement that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course.”

Paul Dolan: “While we recognize many of our fans have a longstanding attachment to Chief Wahoo white supremacy, I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the white supremacist logo from our uniforms in 2019.

What is true for sexual assault is also true for racism and the lie of white supremacy. It is NEVER acceptable. Period. Not today. Not yesterday. Not 10 years ago. Not even 100 years ago. Racism and the lie of white supremacy are abhorrent whenever and wherever they exist.

I do not congratulate Major League Baseball, nor do I thank the Cleveland Indians for committing to not remove Chief Wahoo from their on-field uniforms until 2019. I lament that it took them this long to commit to anything, and I call on owner Paul Dolan and Commissioner Manfred to change the team name and remove the racist caricature immediately, beginning with the 2018 season. Anything less communicates that racism and the lie of white supremacy are socially acceptable. And they are not.

Mark Charles (Navajo) serves as the Washington DC correspondent for Native News Online and is the author of the popular blogReflections from the Hogan.” His writings are regularly published by Native News Online in a column titled “A Native Perspective” which addresses news directly affecting Indian Country as well as offering a Native perspective on national and global news stories. Mark is active on Facebook,Twitter,YouTube andInstagram .

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