June 25, 2008
I have to admit I was a little excited when I first saw these On-Field Stars and Stripes hats that MLB just rolled out. Every team will wear them in the games played over the July 4 weekend and then again on Sept. 11. It's a cool idea and since I'm a sucker for any novelty — especially when it involves headwear, baseball, America or any combination thereof — I started to think about buying one.
However, my firecracker became a bit doused once I meandered over to the shops at MLB.com to pick out a cap that'd make me the talk of any Independence Day barbecue and for two completely different reasons.
1) The hats are designed to raise money for charity, but it's unclear how much of each sale will go toward the cause. While every sale of the $34.99 hats is said to help the Welcome Back Veterans fund, MLB has only defined the donation with that always murky "portion of the proceeds" description, which has naturally left some people skeptical.
Paul Lukas of Uniwatch attended the press conference and asked for a better description of how much from each hat would be donated to the WBV fund and was pretty much given the stink-eye from the honchos before a MLB spokesperson said he would try to find an answer.
But since regular on-field caps cost $31.99, it's hard not to deduce that we're the ones making a $3 donation (which is fine, because I have no problem supporting our vets), while the MLB makes its regular profit (which is not). Capitalism in the guise of charity isn't that cool, so it shouldn't be that hard for MLB to assure us that isn't what's happening.
(In comparison, New Era made a special hat for injured Buffalo Bill Kevin Everett last fall and donated all profits to his cause.)
2) There was actually someone in the MLB offices who thought it was a good idea to approve the above Cleveland Indians design. I'm not one to drive the hardest line when it comes to Native American imagery in sports, mainly because I'm not Native American and therefore have no idea what's offensive and what isn't. Since we've seen reports that some tribe leaders are offended while some aren't, I tend to stay out of the fray.
Still, I strongly agree with what David Chalk of Bugs & Cranks wrote on that hat in question:
"Does anyone think this cap is an appropriate use of the American flag, or representative of this country and its ideals? ... No one thought that the cursive “I” wouldn’t have been a better way to go?"
Chalk is right. While that may still be the Indians' logo, there's absolutely no reason to further endorse the division it causes by plastering it with what are supposed to be the unifying colors of the American flag. There were other options in Cleveland that would have worked just as well. (Please, save the jokes about the colors looking just as offensive on the Mariners' hat.)
I've a call into the Major League offices since early Tuesday morning asking for a clarification on both of these issues, but have not received anything other than a "we'll look into it." I will update with a response if and when they do.
Until then, please the jump for two examples of what two more reasonable people have done when faced with the prospect of wearing Chief Wahoo on their noggins: