Another season opener has come and gone for the Indians. Once again the debate about Chief Wahoo has been rekindled. The debate became mainstream during the World Series match-up against the Chicago Cubs. A fan (like the one seen above) was pictured dressed in a Native American head dress and looked incredibly outlandish.
To further understand this controversy one must go back in time. Twenty-five years ago Phil Yenyo an Aztec Indian began protesting at Indians home openers. You can find him the same place every year at the corner of West 25th and Detroit Avenue in downtown Cleveland. Folks have told him to "get a life" but he really enjoys talking to the people that stop by in search of a civil conversation. He uses this avenue to educate people who may have questions as to why the logo is offensive to his people.
Indians owner Larry Dolan has taken note of the controversy saying "We do have empathy for those who take issue with it. We have minimized the use of (Chief Wahoo) and we will continue to do what we think is appropriate." Some fans have taken a liking to the new Block C design, but other are not handing the change as easily.
The Indians are not the only franchise to come under scrutiny. The Washington Redskins of the National Football League have come under fire for their nickname and logo as well. Redskins owner Dan Syder has been pressured for many years to change the name of the franchise. Some broadcasters have stepped in to express their opinions. Trey Wingo of ESPN said he would call the Redskins simply "Washington." NBC commentator Bob Costas declared the name a racial slur. Some feel that Chief Wahoo is no better than the Redskins nickname.
The counter argument has taken a odd tone at times.
"What do you call Redskin Potatoes?"
Seriously that's an opposing argument that is circulating out there.
When applied to the description of people the term "Redskin" is racist. People who are not the targets of this term do not feel that it is racist. This is the exact message that Phil Yenyo intends to convey. He welcomes anyone to engage in a lengthy civil discussion about Wahoo. Often he is pressed to explain how the "caricature" demeans them.
Some haven't been quick to embrace the change. One season-ticket holder for the Indians said "They're a bunch of idiots" referring to the protesters. Chief Wahoo is woven deep into the fabric of Northeast Ohio. You can look around to see Wahoo showcased on t-shirts, bumper sticker, and posters in numerous locations.
The Indians organization remains committed to Wahoo, but one must question for how long?
Major League Baseball will be hosting their annual All-Star game in Cleveland in 2019. Commissioner Rob Manfred has made it apparent that the Indians must change. It will be interesting to see if he uses the All-Star game as a bargaining tool to bring about that change.
What do you think?
Let me know in the comments or tweet me @schudel_ralph