COMMENTARY | How long will the Cleveland Indians be able to fly under the radar?
While the Washington Redskins of the NFL have been at the center of a national debate over the sensitivity of their team name and logo in today's politically correct culture, the Indians have, for the most part, managed to escape the crosshairs of the national media.
This is surprising, to say the least, because the Indians are right there neck-and-neck with the Redskins as far as stereotypical imagery goes.
The Indians' name dates back to 1915, a time when such a moniker was commonplace for teams all across the country. Of course, most of those of other teams have long since changed their names as the nation opened its eyes to the plight of the Native American over the past 50 years.
The usual defense of Cleveland continuing to use this antiquated moniker for its baseball team was that it was in honor of Louis Sockalexis, who was very likely the first Native American to play professional baseball. Unfortunately, for defenders of the Sockalexis legend, there is reason to believe that the Indians name was part of an identity shift that saw Cleveland borrow much of the imagery of the Boston Braves, who had won the World Series the previous season.
As offensive as the Indians' name may be to some, the thing that should have Cleveland in the middle of this debate is its continued use of Chief Wahoo as the Indians' primary logo. The Redskins' name is what has people calling the team insensitive for continuing to stick with it, and Chief Wahoo is literally the visual depiction of a "redskin." Cartoonish as it may be, the Chief Wahoo logo is pretty offensive when you think about it -- bright red skin and a stereotypically large nose are just two of the characteristics that come to mind.
To the credit of Cleveland's current ownership, the Indians have slowly tried to phase out Chief Wahoo over the past few years, but the logo is still very much a part of the Indians' image. Even though the "block C" cap logo Cleveland debuted in 2008 has been more prominent over the past couple of years, the Indians continue to wear Chief Wahoo on their caps more often than not. I find this very strange, because, from a merchandising standpoint, the block C logo has been very successful for the Indians. I can probably count 40 to 50 people wearing block C caps on for every person donning Chief Wahoo headgear in this city.
Even though there are other teams like the Atlanta Braves and the Kansas City Chiefs who are involved in this debate as well, the likelihood is, if the Redskins do end up changing their name, you can fully expect that the Indians will be next on the list.
Only time will tell if we've seen the last of Chief Wahoo.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Indians for over 25 years.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cleveland Indians
- Washington Redskins
- Chief Wahoo