The Plain Dealer came out forcefully in an editorial Friday recommending that the Cleveland Indians drop their long-serving, cartoonish mascot, Chief Wahoo.
Years ago, I didn’t.
I made the usual arguments: Chief Wahoo is part of our Cleveland heritage, a rallying point for the whole community — black and white — that unites behind its team. The Indians are named in honor of a native American ballplayer, Louis Sockalexis (who went to Holy Cross College 80 years before I did).
Blah. Blah. Blah.
Now that I’ve had a couple of decades to consider the issue, I’ve changed my perspective. There’s no getting around the fact that Chief Wahoo, a product of an earlier era, is a stereotypical caricature who offends not only Native Americans but many other minorities and a lot of white folk who wish we Americans would put racial and ethnic divisiveness behind us.
This isn’t the first time I’ve taken on Chief Wahoo in this blog, started in 2008 with the idea that it might be fun to use baseball caps as a jumping off point for discussing baseball and other sports. After a “hello world” entry, in my first true post I analyzed the Cleveland Indians cap, a natural in that I am a Cleveland native who grew up in Cleveland Heights as a diehard fan of the Tribe.
Toward the end of the post, I “came out” against Chief Wahoo. My commitment has only deepened over time, and I was glad to see The Plain Dealer make its case.
Notably, the PD doesn’t say that the Chief Wahoo logo should be obliterated. It is part of Cleveland and baseball heritage.
But like the Chief Wahoo sign that topped old Municipal Stadium, it belongs in a museum, to be visited occasionally as a reminder of the good times we associate with it, and of the shame we should feel from a less-enlightened era.