On Friday afternoon, the Cleveland Plain Dealer dropped a bombshell on the sports world with an editorial asking the Cleveland Indians to part ways with their mascot, Chief Wahoo, once and for all.
The Indians have been moving away from the logo for years, introducing a block “C” on hats in recent years instead. But it’s not completely gone, and I’m sure there are plenty of Clevelanders who don’t want to see it go for good.
I get it. With two parents who cheered for the Indians, I grew up with Chief Wahoo in the 1990s. I secretly hoped I would get placed on whatever Little League team was the Indians because I thought Chief Wahoo was really cool. To me, it represented an intimidating Major League offense capable of putting up 1,000 runs in a season, and it adorned the hats of the American League champions more than once during my childhood.
But I was too young to realize that logo meant something completely different to a lot of people. Just look at it – it’s really racist. I understand why the Cleveland media is taking a Washington Redskins-like stand against using the logo or mascot because they’re afraid of the message it sends.
The Indians probably won’t remove the Chief Wahoo logo this season, but a retirement ceremony is probably coming sooner rather than later.
With so much pressure on Native American-themed sports franchises to abandon their names or mascots that may be deemed offensive, will the Atlanta Braves be the next to face the heat?
I want to say the Braves won’t face similar pressure. The history behind their nickname is less offensive than other nicknames that have come under fire, and aside from the Tomahawk Chop, the Braves have phased out all other traditions that may be deemed offensive (you may notice they don’t still have Chief Noc-A-Homa hollering like a savage in the center-field seats these days; his retirement decades ago was for the best).
(Also read: Georgia, please stop embarrassing yourself)
The Tomahawk Chop originated when Florida State alumnus Deion Sanders came to Atlanta to play for the Braves, and fans began doing the cheer to honor him. It’s known as the War Chant at FSU, and it’s one of many traditions sports fans do at FSU events that have been given the OK by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. So in some weird transitive theory explanation, the Tomahawk Chop in Atlanta isn’t considered offensive by the tribes from which it originated.
Maybe the Braves will someday eliminate the tomahawk from their uniforms, but I expect Atlanta’s baseball nickname to remain the “Braves” for decades to come – long after they move to Cobb County. But in Cleveland, the days of Chief Wahoo are likely numbered.