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Must-click link: What Chief Wahoo really means

Apr 26, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT

Wahoo Cover

You’ve heard me go on and on about Chief Wahoo before. If you think I’m just being an alarmist liberal pansy about it, however, I’d ask that you educate yourself a bit and understand what Wahoo is really all about.

You can do that by reading my friend Peter Pattakos’ excellent article about it in the latest edition of Cleveland Scene. I think this quote from a team executive is telling:

“When people look at Chief Wahoo, they think baseball,” says DiBiasio. He calls the issue “one of individual perception” and explains that the franchise’s “acknowledgment to the sensitivities involved” is evidenced by the fact that it “does not animate nor humanize the logo.”

But the questions raised by the organization’s stance on the symbol are as glaring as Wahoo’s skin tone. If it’s a matter of individual perception, why would the perception of those who “think of baseball” when they see the logo matter more than the perception of those who see a demeaning vestige of America’s racist past? If the Indians recognize that it would be wrong to animate the logo, why keep it around at all?

And if they try not to “humanize” Wahoo, are they not admitting that, in its current form, it’s rather dehumanizing?

I know there is zero chance that this comments thread won’t turn into the same old Wahoo debate we always have.  But what those often tend to lack is actual history and information. To that end, I ask that you read Peter’s article. You’ll learn about the origin of Wahoo and the nature of the opposition to the logo.

You’ll be shocked to learn that, yes, real people are deeply and personally affected by Wahoo. It’s not just liberal pansies like me.

151 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. schlom - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:12 PM

    I think the serious question to ask is whether words can change meanings. If you ask people on the street what the word Indians means I’m sure most sports fans would say the Cleveland baseball teams, not the native people that lived in North America when Europeans first came here. And it’s probably the same with Chief Wahoo – he’s more identifiable as the mascot of the baseball team, not as a cruel caricature of the “Indians.” It seems to me that these things have moved past the meanings they had 50 or 100 years ago which makes them acceptable today.

    • The Common Man - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:19 PM

      Words can change meanings, and so can symbols, schlom. The problem is that the stereotypes being perpetuated by the Indians mascot (which, by the way, is supposed to represent the concept of Indians) are still incredibly prevalent today. If we had moved on past them, maybe this would be a different conversation (though I’d personally still be uncomfortable with it. But in this case, we absolutely haven’t.

      • schlom - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:41 PM

        Are there really stereotypes being perpetuated by the Indians mascot? If so, can someone explain them to me as I personally don’t see it.

      • Tim's Neighbor - Apr 26, 2012 at 11:23 PM

        1. Red skin
        2. Big nose

        Similar to black face.

      • countertrry44 - Apr 27, 2012 at 11:22 AM

        I have white skin and a big nose. Hmmm, I think that Fighting Irish Guy needs to go, as well . Heck, so should the Patriots, because my great great great great great great uncle died fighting for the British. San Diego Chargers too in honor of those that have lost loved ones in a lightening storm. Do you see how ridiculous this gets. It’s a mascot of a team playing a game, it does not effect your well-being.

  2. nickellbag - Apr 27, 2012 at 4:42 AM

    Liberals SAVE THE WORLD, Kill yourself immediately…

  3. countertrry44 - Apr 27, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    “You’ll be shocked to learn that, yes, real people are deeply and personally affected by Wahoo”
    Did he rob you? Kick you in the shins? He’s a cartoon, please explain just how this “hurts”.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 27, 2012 at 10:27 AM

      Ok, here’s an absurd example. Let’s say for next year’s Jackie Robinson day, a bunch of teams don the Negro League Uniforms instead of their traditional ones (Royals become the Monarchs, Yankees become Black Yankees, etc).

      However, instead of the Yankees creating some awesome interlocking NY, they use a picture of a guy in black face. Do you think that would offend people? It’s the same as the Chief Wahoo symbol.

      Are they physically hurt by the symbol? Maybe not, but there are far more pains than just physical.

      • countertrry44 - Apr 27, 2012 at 11:18 AM

        Just because people will get offended doesn’t mean they should. No of these caricatures affect your physical or mental well being. Again it is a cartoon, if one is offended by it, that is simply because they choose to be offended. I would love to hear an explaination of how this can effect someones physical or mental, or emotional for that matter. Any one of the millions and millions of people in this country could CHOOSE to be offended by most any sports mascot, that doesn’t make it legitimate.

  4. jarathen - May 1, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    I just don’t get why Cleveland wouldn’t want to be the Spiders again. So much more you can do with that (Spiders are difficult to offend).

  5. JB (the original) - May 3, 2012 at 6:47 PM

    Must have been out of the loop when this one was initially posted. Personally, I think they should drop the image, but I don’t dwell on it. I wonder if the team (Cleveland) just keeps an ear to the ground (see what I did there) as to how the ongoing court case/battle in regards to the University of North Dakota’s “Fighting Sioux” name and logo, and will ultimately follow what happens there. Surprised that Craig didn’t mention that (or anyone else in 150 comments for that matter), but I guess being in flyover country, that was to be expected. (yeah, there’s a few snarky bits in there, but what do I know, being a Polack and all.)

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