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A different take on the native iconography in sports argument

Sep 26, 2012, 4:39 PM EDT

Wahoo Cover

I have a go at Chief Wahoo every six months or so. It’s just what I do.  But I’ll grant that it gets old arguing that Chief Wahoo should go away simply because he’s offensive.

Why? Because it never solves anything. Despite the fact that it is 100% rationally undeniable that Chief Wahoo is offensive, there will always be people who come back with all kinds of complicated, contrived nonsense to say he isn’t because if they don’t their childhood will be ruined or something. I dunno. Ask them. It’s hard to hear their arguments what with all of that mouth-breathing.

Anyway, today Paul Lukas tries to sidestep the basic offensiveness argument — about not just Wahoo, but over native American iconography in general — with this tack:

I see this as more of an intellectual property issue. Basically, for those of us who aren’t Native American (which basically means the vast majority of the people who reading this), I don’t think we have the right to use images of headdresses, tomahawks, tribe names, and so on. It’s not a question of whether such symbols are offensive, or whether they perpetuate outdated stereotypes; it’s that they don’t belong to us. If a non-Jewish group used a menorah or a Star of David in its marketing, wouldn’t that raise a few eyebrows? Ditto for a non-military group using a Purple Heart. And if those examples don’t pass the smell test, neither does a sports team using Native American iconography.

I guess I can see where he’s coming from, but I submit that there are all manner of businesses in this country that use some sort of naming or iconography that doesn’t really belong to them. There are thousands of little shops, campgrounds, restaurants, you name it, that use some sort of name or iconography from some sort of ethnic group or singularly respected group of any kind, despite having no connection to them at all.  People exploit Memorial Day for mattress sales, for cryin’ out loud.

I’m not saying Lukas is wrong here. He makes a good argument, but I still think the best argument is that these things are just offensive.

Oh, and finally: before you wade into the comments with your “what about the Fighting Irish!” idiocy, read ALL of Lukas’ column. There he deals with the usual counter-arguments and dispatches them pretty deftly.

  1. shaggylocks - Sep 26, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    Read the entire column… how? There’s no link.

    • shaggylocks - Sep 26, 2012 at 4:45 PM

      Okay, now there’s a link. Now my comment looks stupid. Seriously, I know how to use the Internet!

      • historiophiliac - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:38 PM

        That’s internets — plural.

  2. stex52 - Sep 26, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    Copyrights on headdresses and tomahawks? Damn, where did they file? Who knew?

    I hope the rest of his argument is better than that. Does he seriously suggest that they are the only cultures that used tomahawks and headdresses?

    No comment on the overall theme, and I’m too lazy to read the whole article. But the point made above is silly.

    • paperlions - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:08 PM

      The concept is intellectual property. Those were creations and icons of Native American peoples, not of Europeans (or anyone else). Europeans filing copyrights for iconography that are the intellectual property of other groups is a valid argument. People own the images, concepts, and ideas they create…whether they are copyrighted or not….if other people steal those ideas to make money off of them (even if they file for copyrights), they have stolen intellectual property.

      • stex52 - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:13 PM

        How about if your own ethnic group used tomhawks and headdresses at one time? Used to be pretty prevalent before the Roman Empire.

      • paperlions - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:20 PM

        Link?

        FWIW, I know my dad’s side of the family used to use tomahawks and head dresses, as they used to live in what is now called Kentucky….my Mom’s side of the family is from Ireland and Germany…I don’t recall those cultures coming with a lot of feathers (though whooping, hollering, and an appreciation for alcohol is common to both sides).

      • proudlycanadian - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:51 PM

        Lions and Tigers and Bears etc. should sue due to the use of their intellectual properties.

      • stex52 - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:31 PM

        A tomahawk is a sharpened stone tethered to a stick in some fashion (thong, sinew, split shaft). The concept of sharpened stone goes back at least 30,000 years. I know it was in North America in the Clovis culture more than 11,000 years. The concept of of tying it to a leverage has a long history among the African, Celt, Saxon and Asiatic cultures. Can’t give a firm date for sure (a long time). It’s been a while since I applied for a patent, but they would never get it based on common or obvious usage. You would have to go for a specific design improvement.

        As to headdresses, c’mon. What aboriginal culture did not have a headdress design? Skulls, animal heads, horns, flowers, crowns, laurel wreaths, vulture feathers, you name it. Again, you’d have to go for a specific individual design, and American tribes were nowhere near uniform.

        Seems pretty dicey to me.

  3. manute - Sep 26, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    Sidestepping the offensiveness argument is a total copout, isn’t it? Sure it’s a tough (and always super-annoying) discussion, but that’s the issue here, not IP ownership.

    It’s like saying that they should drop Wahoo because he’s old and boring, or because market research shows that a really cool vampire logo would sell more jerseys. Maybe that’s true, but that’s an entirely different discussion.

    Lukas is looking for a solution that won’t hurt anyone’s feelings. So we’re all supposed to pretend that race/ethnicity and offensiveness aren’t the real issues here. Unfortunately, this sort of Ostrich Diplomacy just doesn’t work.

    • stex52 - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:08 PM

      I’m going to punt a little bit myself, because I really don’t know how most Native Americans feel about the popular imagery. And before you accuse me of too much, know that I grew up in East Texas in the ’50’s; I know just how ugly and raw institutional racism can be. But I seriously don’t know how big an issue this stuff is with the people most affected. I have seen polls that seem to go both ways.

      Having said that, you are correct that the article goes down a blind alley trying to avoid the heart of its own argument.

    • Ryan - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:15 PM

      I think it should be pointed out that Lukas *does* think that these things are offensive. He says as much in that article himself (for example, the paragraph about the Redskins and Chief Wahoo). I think what he is doing with this column is approaching it from a different angle because it may help bring more people around to the ultimate conclusion, which is that these mascots and caricatures shouldn’t be used to brand athletic teams.

      He’s got a much longer explanation of his views about these things in a post from his blog back in March; I suggest you check it out before you accuse him of sidestepping the real issues.

      http://www.uni-watch.com/2012/03/23/new-project-aims-to-challenge-native-american-imagery-in-sports/

    • bigharold - Sep 26, 2012 at 10:33 PM

      “Sidestepping the offensiveness argument is a total copout, isn’t it?”

      If Native Americans take offense at the Washington Redskins, .. I get it. I’m amazed that the name wasn’t changed in the 70s. But, Cleveland’s and Alanta’s Indians and or Braves in and of themselves are not necessarily pejorative connotations. How one presents that image is far more important, .. so maybe Chief Wahoo is a bit much. Perhaps being Irish decent I don’t have enough context or perspective.

      On the other hand, .. maybe it’s just me. Cause, I also never took offense to Notre Dame’s team name and mascot either. I mean why would anyone of Irish decent take offense to “the Fighting Irish” and the imagery of a drunken belligerent leprechaun?

      • thefalcon123 - Sep 26, 2012 at 11:34 PM

        ” But, Cleveland’s and Alanta’s Indians and or Braves in and of themselves are not necessarily pejorative connotations. ”

        So, based on your argument, you would be okay with the following expansion teams?

        The Columbus Blacks
        The Portland Homosexuals
        The Santa Fe Mexicans

      • bigharold - Sep 27, 2012 at 6:27 PM

        “… you would be okay with the following expansion teams?”

        Perhaps. As I stated how they are presented would carry far more weight than the mere mention of their mascot.

        And, I’d wager if presented in a positive and respectful way African Americans, Gay and Lesbian and Mexican Americans would flock to those teams, .. as well as old Irish White guys like myself if I lived in Columbus, Portland or Santa Fe respectively, .. if they were winning.

  4. El Bravo - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    What the f@ck does this have to do with pie?

    • stex52 - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:14 PM

      Nothing. But I like pie.

    • proudlycanadian - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:53 PM

      That takes the cake. Them is fighting words El Bravo.

  5. tfbuckfutter - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Oh yeah? Well what about the Los Angeles Kings?

    WE HAVE NO ROYALTY!

    • El Bravo - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:46 PM

      We have a late King of Pop and King of Rock, we have The King (Lebron), The King (Felix) and The King (Burger King). We gots made kings yo. Plus we have the Royals.

      • tfbuckfutter - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:00 PM

        Awww the Royals.

        Ok, I’ll give you the Kings (in fact, we should maybe think about having MORE teams named “The Kings”) but no way should we have The Royals.

    • historiophiliac - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:15 PM

      Since the Constitution prohibits granting titles of nobility, I think you should make a federal case about this.

  6. tfbuckfutter - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    All legitimate and illegitimate points on all these issues aside….

    We can ALL agree that the Redskins is patently offensive and should be changed, right?

    • thefalcon123 - Sep 26, 2012 at 11:35 PM

      Apparently 13 people are totally fine with racial epithets as team names.

      What a bunch of useless crackers….

    • bh192012 - Sep 27, 2012 at 5:33 PM

      Offensive to whom? Are you making an assumption about an entire race of people? Do you know what that’s called?

  7. rexbeatsoff2feet - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    It takes more than a sports logo to offend me.

    • tfbuckfutter - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:25 PM

      That is only a valid opinion if you are a member of one of the groups being mocked.

      “I’m offended when people say the n-word” said by a black person is obvious.
      “I’m not offended when people say the n-word” said by a black person is curious.
      “I’m offended when people say the n-word” said by a white person is progressive.
      “I’m not offended when people say the n-word” said by a white person is obvious.

  8. slclions - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE…very disappointed in you Craig, Paul has been against this kind of imaginary for years.

  9. hackerjay - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    As far as I can tell, the original owner of the Padres was neither a Catholic nor a Spaniard, so I assume Paul Lukas is against that team name too, right?

    Also, wouldn’t his line of thinking lead to places like Chicago needing to be renamed?

    I’m against names like the Redskins, and I think Cheif Wahoo should go away, but I don’t think this guy makes a very good case for it. I think the better argument is just that there isn’t any good reason to leave in something that is pretty darn racist.

    • slclions - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:41 PM

      Read the 2 articles from him…I dont agree fully with him but he does make a good case

      • hackerjay - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:57 PM

        I don’t see a second article, but in the one linked he says when talking about whether or not names like the Braves are derogetory:
        “Maybe there were and maybe they weren’t. Either way, there’s no other ethnic group that’s the subject of these “tributes” in the sports world. Don’t you think it’s better to let Native Americans decide how their culture should be represented?”
        And to that I was responding that this is exactly the same thing as with the Padres. That is a team named after the Catholic preists that founded San Diego, but it was not founded by Catholic Spanairds.
        Also, like I was getting at with the previous post, if you can’t name something after a group of people you don’t belong to, then do we need to rename everything that is named after Native American people? Do Illinois, Arkansas, Iowa, and aboutu a dozen other states need to be renamed?

        My concern isn’t with his conclusion, I just think that the aproach he takes is pretty weak and does more harm then good.

  10. ezthinking - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    Craig, we been down this road before. Your statement “100% rationally undeniable that Chief Wahoo is offensive” lacks subjective or objective proof. The most I have ever seen is the standard article about the lady that comes to every Opening Day and protests the Indians and Chief Wahoo. Where’s the study, where’s the groundswell of outcry, where’s the proof? It doesn’t seem to exist.

    I still can’t find anyone who can accurately explain what part of the Chief Wahoo emblem “obviously derogatory” as is often stated and stated directly in the article. It’s a cartoon of an Indian. I am and have been surrounded in the Indian culture everyday of my life. Our teams are named the Indians, Sioux, Redmen, Thorpes, Chiefs, Warriors, Braves, Arrows and Warbirds. They all use Indian-themed mascots. Chief Wahoo brings no outrage here. Inadequate healthcare, a crippled reservation economy, and mismanagement of tribal assets by the federal government are real issues impacting the quality of life.

    • tfbuckfutter - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:02 PM

      “Where’s the study, where’s the groundswell of outcry, where’s the proof? It doesn’t seem to exist.”

      There doesn’t need to be a groundswell of outcry for something to be wrong.

      It’s kind of why black people didn’t get Civil Rights until like 50 years ago.

      • ezthinking - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:14 PM

        My question is why is the image of Chief Wahoo offensive or “wrong?” I’m sure I’ll get back the half-assed article written by the part-time college professor in Ohio which goes into how Chief Wahoo maybe came about and how it has since changed. It comes up every time. It too lacks any real study, just a writer’s opinion that the mascot is offensive.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:22 PM

        What kind of study do you need? What would satisfy you? Can you not see, with your own eyes, that a red-faced, big-toothed, hook-nosed caricature is racist?

        Do you need studies to tell you that a person dressing up in blackface like some minstrel is racist?

        What are you looking for, exactly?

      • ezthinking - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:28 PM

        Craig, I’m looking for intent to injure. I need something to show me the outrage from Indians. I haven’t seen it.

      • tfbuckfutter - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:31 PM

        Or how about the fact that his name is “Chief Wahoo”?

        And “intent to injure”? Drawing a mocking caricature is in and of itself an “intent to injure” because IT’S MOCKING.

      • stex52 - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:55 PM

        EZ and I often don’t agree. But we do here. Is the subject group offended?

      • bh192012 - Sep 27, 2012 at 5:22 PM

        I am part Native American (3/8), however I am 100% American. I already wrote a long rant, but I’ve shortened it quite a bit.

        “91% of the American Indians surveyed in the 48 states on the mainland USA found the name “Redskins” acceptable” -Sports Illustrated

        Right now in this country, most of the people are 100% Americans. There are some (9%) who want to be something else (Black, African, Native, Mexican etc.) and those who want them to be something else. Make nice little categories, get offended at everything.

        Racism is real, but this isn’t it. People should stop trying to emerge race problems. Don’t project assumed racial problems, that’s prejudice.

    • historiophiliac - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:03 PM

      If you can’t see some kind of subjective proof of offensiveness in the cover picture above, I think you might have that eye problem that’s going around baseball. Maybe your should get your vision checked.

      Or, you could do a little research by wearing a Chief Wahoo t-shirt around some of the reservations or Indian nations capitals and see what kind of feedback you get.

      It is rather ironic that the Indians, et al make so much money marketing these images while those they make fun of suffer the health and economic ills you rightly pointed out.

      • ezthinking - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:22 PM

        Watch this tonight.

        http://abc.go.com/watch/2020/SH559026/VD55148316/2020-1014-children-of-the-plains

        What you see happening here in the USA is what is offensive, not some mascot.

      • historiophiliac - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:52 PM

        Dude, I am agreeing with you on the economic & health problems, but that does not negate the fact that the images are offensive too.

  11. bat42boy - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    I think your thoughts, comments on Chief Wahoo and other
    Indian things to be offensive to me. I am not American Indian but l don’t think they should be taken away like what happened to Illinois. Our country and government has gone overboard on this subject. You must work for that horrible ACLU group who should go to the middle east to do their dirty work. See if they can survive.

  12. blacksables - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    So ballplayers will stop the stupid saluting they do unless they have actually served in the military?

    If you disagree with one, you have to disagree with all. And when you have zero tolerance in place, it means there is no tolerance for anything.

    That sounds kind of stupid to me.

  13. realgone2 - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    Despite the fact that it is 100% rationally undeniable that Chief Wahoo is offensive,

    Taking something objective and making it a fact. Good job there Craig. It has been a few days since you’ve jumped on the PC soapbox. I guess the spot was getting cold.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:08 PM

      Please make the argument that Chief Wahoo is not a racist caricature. If you make a good, compelling argument that Wahoo is not a racist caricature, I will make it a Comment of the Day and feature it prominently.

      Make sure it’s logical and is about the image itself. Not about the people who take issue with it like me. Not about liberal p.c. people you hate. On the merits, make an argument that the red-faced, big nosed, big-toothed smiling Indian is not a racist caricature.

      I’ll be reading and waiting.

      • jlovenotjlo - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:25 PM

        Just playing a little devil’s advocate I suppose, as I do think this is a situation in which the logo should be changed. But…

        What exactly is offensive about having a big nose? Big teeth? Smiling? I of course understand the red face to be very offensive, and I will concede that overall this Chief Wahoo looks like kind of a joke.

        But what would it take in your mind to make this guy unoffensive? A normal sized nose and teeth with a straight face and “regular” looking Native American skin? Or we do we just get rid of it all together for the sole reason that he is a Native American. We’ve seen, among others, the University of Illinois and the University of North Dakota lose out on having their very unoffensive logos because it depicted a Native American.

        I guess what I’m getting at is, is having a goofy cartoon caricature of a Native American as your logo offensive, or just having one in general not okay, no matter how respectful and “normal” it may be. God I never get involved with these topics, why now?

      • clevername1 - Sep 26, 2012 at 10:32 PM

        I AM American Indian. I can’t speak for others, but I am not offended by any of the teams that chose to to use our heritage in a mascot roll. This country is so PC it makes me want to puke. And no, I have not had too much fire-water tonight! Stick to baseball Craig.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Sep 27, 2012 at 9:52 AM

        jlove: As a member of a tribe of people who have been characterized as having hook nosed features, I will tell you the hook nose Jew is very offensive. It stands for sniveling, evil, and stupid in the same stance. How do I know that? Because people who describe Jews as having hooked noses have gone on record with their beliefs that Jews are sniveling, evil, and stupid creatures worthy of annihilation.

      • bh192012 - Sep 27, 2012 at 5:50 PM

        Seriously, my skin is redder than my 100% European friends.
        I have a big nose.
        I smile and have teeth that are prominent when I make a very big smile.
        I have long black straight hair.

        I may not have a headdress, but I have a native style spear, knives, tomahawks, a wood bow with sinew string & arrows. I’m proud of these things. If you think I look offensive, or ASSume my peers feel a certain way……………… Well, instead of ASSuming things why don’t you think a little deeper about what prejudice is and read the various surveys done of Native Americans on what they think?

    • moogro - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:11 PM

      I think you mean subjective.

  14. Francisco (FC) - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    Oh, and finally: before you wade into the comments with your “what about the Fighting Irish!” idiocy. There he deals with the usual counter-arguments and dispatches them pretty deftly.

    I don’t want to be contrarian, but the way he deals with the Fighting Irish puzzles me:

    Similarly, Notre Dame is a Catholic university. So when they called their teams the Fighting Irish, they were celebrating themselves
    Since when are all Irish Catholic? I’m pretty sure Northern Ireland would have a thing or two to say about this.

    • Francisco (FC) - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:01 PM

      In general I can see his point, but the way he deals with “Fighting Irish” umm… feels glossed over rather than deftly handled.

  15. royalintx - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    Typical argument for Craig. His opinion is a “fact” and if you don’t agree, you must be a mouth breathing idiot.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:07 PM

      Please make the argument that Chief Wahoo is not a racist caricature. If you make a good, compelling argument that Wahoo is not a racist caricature, I will make it a Comment of the Day and feature it prominently.

      Make sure it’s logical and is about the image itself. Not about the people who take issue with it like me. Not about liberal p.c. people you hate. On the merits, make an argument that the red-faced, big nosed, big-toothed smiling Indian is not a racist caricature.

      I’ll be reading and waiting.

      • ezthinking - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:04 PM

        Nice piece of burden shifting there Craig. Ordinarily you would have the burden of arguing the the image is racist, but we’ll try it your way. Let’s start with your parameters,

        ‘Racist’ as used here comes from the root word ‘racism.’

        Racism is defined as

        1: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
        2: racial prejudice or discrimination

        http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racist?show=0&t=1348698348

        Presumably, you are not arguing that Wahoo is being used to show the superior race that is being Indian, rather you are using definition 2, racial prejudice or discrimination.

        Prejudice is defined as:

        1: injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one’s rights; especially : detriment to one’s legal rights or claims
        2 a (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge
        b : an instance of such judgment or opinion
        c : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics

        Discrimination is defined as:

        1 a : the act of discriminating
        b : the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently
        2 : the quality or power of finely distinguishing
        3 a : the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually
        b : prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment

        So the question is, what attributes of Chief Wahoo are ‘racist’ or more directly racial prejudice
        or discrimination. You have identified “red-faced,” “big nosed,” “big-toothed smiling Indian.”

        To get our answer, maybe we should ask if any of these attribute designed to bring Indians into contempt? Does the Cleveland Indians MLB team want to keep Indians away from their ballpark? Do they seek ridicule to Indians? Are they asking that Indians be treated any differently than anyone else? Obviously the Cleveland Indians want to inspire people to come to their ballpark, cheer on the Indians and leave their money behind. Why would they want to damage their product?

        Are red faces negative? Are big noses negative? How about big-toothy grins? Where’s the negative?

        The factors you list as ‘racist’ are more of an artistic critique than a racial critique. To some the Mona Lisa is the most beautiful thing in the world. To others it is a painting of a women with too many clothes on.

        Is Chief Wahoo a racist caricature? I guess to some it is. Maybe some feel shame when they see an Indian. Others see pride.

        My argument is simple. Acting racist requires the intent to injure. Where is the intent to injure Indians with Chief Wahoo. If we can’t find the intent to injure, aren’t we really arguing about what is art? Should he be tanner or whiter, have a smaller nose or bigger ears, a frown or puckered lips?

        No one has to like Chief Wahoo, but dislike and racism are not mutually inclusive of each other and should not be confused together.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:18 PM

        If you cannot see that grossly exaggerating a race’s physical traits in order to make them into a cartoonish freak is a tool of oppressing a minority, there is no helping you at all. Quote the dictionary to give you all of the comfort you’d like. It does not change that the very act of creating a caricature like Chief Wahoo is to mock and trivialize a race of people.

        And if you cannot acknowledge that such an act, even if it is not part of some organized and concerted effort to effect a given policy goal, is not racism, you are even further beyond help.

        Such characters — like the black faced sambo, the slant-eyed Asian and the greedy, big-nosed Jew — are part and parcel of systematic racial discrimination. They have long been used to de-humanize actual human beings as a means of making racist laws and policies — actual laws and policies that satisfy your obtuse desire to have a dictionary definition met — more palatable to the masses who might otherwise question them. “Hmm, the black guy can’t drink at this drinking fountain? Well, it’s ok, they’re a silly, carefree whistling, smiling and dancing race who care not for such things!”

        But hey, I’m sure there are a bunch of words I just used that you and your Funk and Wagnall can parse to make it seem like the thing you are defending is not an offensive and shitty thing.

      • ezthinking - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:45 PM

        Tease and assume things about me all you want, but you asked for a response and I gave it. You wanted it logical, so I went to the definitions. You make fun of that and deride using my public education. I’m sorry it offends.

        I see and hear Indian racism every day. It’s where I live every day. Maybe I’m too close to it. Maybe you can’t see the other side. I’m struggling to see yours. But I’m listening, but am not getting the answer to my question; where is the intent to injure Indians with Chief Wahoo?

      • stoutfiles - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:49 PM

        “The symbol first appeared in 1947, the creation of Walter Goldbach, a 17-year-old draftsman hired by Indians owner Bill Veeck to design a mascot that “would convey a spirit of pure joy and unbridled enthusiasm.” Goldbach’s version had yellow skin and a phallically prominent nose. By 1951, the figure made its debut on Indians uniforms, updated with fire-engine-red skin and a more giddy, less imbecilic grin. Sportswriters provided the name “Chief Wahoo.”

        Goldbach has said that he had a hard time “figuring out how to make an Indian look like a cartoon.

        “It was the last thing on my mind that I would offend someone,” he added.”

        Here’s the original Wahoo: http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4e5670c86bb3f7dd07000032-590/cleveland-indians-1946-1950.jpg

        It’s just a cartoon. He tried to make the image fun, which before that was similar to the Washington Redskins boring logo. You can over analyze anything to take the fun out of it. Better hide all the Disney films, since practically every one of them has racist depictions! Will you not let your kids watch Peter Pan, because all the Indians are portrayed horribly?

        Ban the movie! Kids everywhere think Indians are just like this!

        Should Notre Dame change their team name too because they have a technically racist caricature?

        That’s horrible too! Change the eam name! All Irish people aren’t short and want to fight!

        It’s not a big deal. It’s a caricature, and it’s only harmful if people are influenced by it, which they aren’t. Can you honestly say people are looking at Wahoo today and thinking less of Indians because of it?

        “In 2004, a poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania essentially confirmed the Sports Illustrated poll’s findings, concluding that 91% of the American Indians surveyed in the 48 states on the mainland USA found the name “Redskins” acceptable.”

        Mainstream Indians don’t care. The vast majority of teams / schools that use an Indian name / logo do so with pride, not out of racism, and many tribes approve the use. Perhaps Wahoo should be redrawn to be less goofy, but then again, people should just let it go. It’s not a big deal. If you want to see creepy smiles, head southwest to Cincy, and look at the Reds logo. That’s an 1800’s man/baseball that will haunt your dreams.

      • stex52 - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:53 PM

        I have to fall back on what I said above. How does the group feel? I don’t know. I know there was a huge split between Seminole groups about Fla. State. I would suggest to you that the image is not (in any way I see) intended to demean. I tend, as I get older, to concentrate on what the subjects think. We are all reduced to cultural stereotypes in some way (Thanks, Woody Allen). Do local American Indians find the Braves offensive?

        As I said above, I saw a lot of ugly racism when I was a kid. Being a kid, I didn’t react appropriately. But I grew up and react strongly to it now. But I don’t know where this one plays.

      • historiophiliac - Sep 26, 2012 at 8:25 PM

        You recognize, stoutfiles, that Disney no longer portrays Indians like that? And it still got blow back on Pocahontas. Also, they don’t show Song of the South anymore either. It’s okay to let some things go because they are wrong.

      • stoutfiles - Sep 26, 2012 at 8:51 PM

        You didn’t answer my question. Would you forbid your kids from seeing Peter Pan? Do you actually believe they would develop some sort of negative image towards Indians after the movie? It’s a fun cartoon. There are some awful ones, as seen in “Bamboozled”, but this isn’t one of them, and neither is Wahoo.

        Again, where is the hatred for the Irish logo then? Some people hate it.

        http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2008/10/05/notre-dames-fighting-irish-mascot/

        They are basically the same thing, a fun take on a stereotype. It’s not a big deal unless you make it one. However, if you suggest removing Indian images, you better remove ALL jokes! Cowboys, Cornhuskers, Spartans, etc. They are all tired of being portrayed as fun and comical. In fact, it might even be wrong to give warrior traits to animals. Let’s just use inanimate objects for team names & logos so no one gets offended.

      • historiophiliac - Sep 26, 2012 at 10:22 PM

        When my niece received her membership card for the Cherokee Nation, she asked if that meant she had to start hunting/gathering her food — because this is what she learned about Indians from school. Also, her school has the kids dress up and recreate land runs, with no mention of the effect of this on the Nations who were promised the land as long as the grass grew. We have made an effort to educate her differently at home then. I don’t think she’s seen that Peter Pan. We watch more contemporary stuff with her, honestly. I want her to be proud of her heritage.

  16. moogro - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:18 PM

    Franchises change names all the time. In a few years it doesn’t matter anymore. Braves to Blaze. Senators to Twins. North Stars to Stars. Now NHL in MN is The Wild.

    All are tough to swallow at first, but I don’t even notice anymore. Besides, if this feels like PC over-reach, think how much fun it’ll be in 10-40 years to pull out your Indians gear in your garage and snicker with your non-PC buddies.

  17. Kevin Gillman - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    Craig, I am going to ask you a simple question here, and hope you answer it. How do you feel about the Tomahawk Chop? A gesture your Atlanta Braves have used since the early 90′s, and still do to this day.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:07 PM

      I hate it. I think it’s dumb and offensive and I wish they didn’t do it. And the only times I’ve ever done it is ironically, to mock the fans who do it.

      • Kevin Gillman - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:23 PM

        Fair enough, but again this is your opinion. I have been an Indians fan for about 30 years, I have always known that symbol. But the Indians are doing what they can to change that image. A big reason why they changed the scripted “I”. But where do we go from here? Let’s say the Indians do get rid of the image all together, then where do we go? Eliminate the Tomahawk Chop? Get rid of the Redskins, and rename them something else? Even if we do, there will always be the memories. It’s like Progressive Field will always be Jacobs Field, no matter what they say, because it existed for many years before they changed it. People aren’t stupid, or ignorant to forget about images, or names, and hope everything is forgotten. The truth is the world isn’t fair at all. People are losing their homes, they are losing their jobs, losing loved ones, yet here we are, blessed to even discuss this matter when all it really is anyway are opinions. You’re not wrong, I’m not wrong, but it’s still there.

        So then what?

      • roni - Sep 27, 2012 at 2:09 AM

        LOL, I’m glad you are at The Ted giving them the “ironic chop” Craig continue fighting the good fight. That’s hilarious. I bet you have one of those shirts explaining how to do the chop and are wearing it ironically too.

    • Reflex - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:17 PM

      Craig is on record here as thinking the chop is not a good thing and wishing it would go away, along with the chant.

      • nolanwiffle - Sep 27, 2012 at 8:37 AM

        ….unless one does the chop “ironically”. By the way, how would the Native American sitting two rows behind you know whether you were being ironic or racially insensitive?

      • Craig Calcaterra - Sep 27, 2012 at 8:40 AM

        Because I’d never do it at a game. I’ve mocked it before when making HBT videos and I made it clear in context that I thought it was dumb.

      • nolanwiffle - Sep 27, 2012 at 8:49 AM

        Could the Cleveland Indians argue that “in context” Chief Wahoo is not intended to offend Native Americans?

  18. surly1n1nd1anapol1s - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    I would agree. I find Cleveland offensive in every way.

  19. flavas - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:54 PM

    I’m not going to chime in on the offensive or not-offensive argument. Its as stale as a mid-season game between two sub .500 ball clubs. But since I work exclusively with American Indian college students (who are very in tune to this issue), I’ll chip in a bit.

    American Indians do not recognize, as a culture, the value of intellectual property. Ownership is communal–their societies are communal–thats how we pulled off such shitty treaties with the tribes for 120 years. In that mode of thinking, Lukas’s argument doesn’t hold much water.

    The fact is, as Lukas rightfully stated, that American Indians and Canadian First Nations want to establish and control their own identity–and they deserve the right to do so. 19th century photographers painted a stereotypical image of what American Indians should look like, and our sports iconography adds to that portfolio. Post colonial and 21st century Native people are trying to burn that portfolio and have been for a half a century.

    Lukas is also correct in the licensing of the use of images by different tribal governments, like the Seminoles. Just add them to the conversation; don’t keep them out of the loop and everything will work itself out.

    • historiophiliac - Sep 26, 2012 at 8:16 PM

      That certainly works for a name like the Seminoles, but not so much for Redskins. Some you could license; some should definitely go. (Imagine “owning” a word — it’s as crazy as owning trees and grass, no?)

      Relatedly, imagine having to decide on licensing the insulting “Navajo” (thief) because no one recognizes what you call yourselves (Dine’ or “people”).

  20. yahmule - Sep 26, 2012 at 9:23 PM

    If you’re going to post the cover image from Peter Pattakos’ excellent article on the Curse of Chief Wahoo, you might as well link to the article as well.

    http://www.clevescene.com/cleveland/the-curse-of-chief-wahoo/Content?oid=2954423

  21. airedale1950 - Sep 26, 2012 at 10:11 PM

    If the iconography is outdated ie: Tomahawks and head dresses, I guess in an honest attempt at being timely, the braves should surround Chief Wahoo with casino chips, food stamps and empty Wild Turkey bottles.
    Timely, but still lacking in the all important Political correctness category.

  22. hojo20 - Sep 26, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    The Redskins are here to stay, get over it, Liberal.

    • thefalcon123 - Sep 26, 2012 at 11:38 PM

      Yes, because an obviously offense team name must also become a liberal/conservative issue…

  23. pilonflats - Sep 27, 2012 at 12:29 AM

    Who cares, the Giants are in the playoffs, and if Andre wants his name back from SF he can forget it!

  24. tashkalucy - Sep 27, 2012 at 4:44 AM

    Whenever Chief Wahoo is discussed, a bunch of upper middle-class, college educated, white kids jump in and have a conversation with one another.

    I have many American Indian friends and they think the cartoon of Chief Wahoo is fine.

    I’d suggest that it’s the white kids that are bringing the hate as well as some Jesse-Jackson-me-first Indian activists. There is no evidence whatsoever that people that go to Indians baseball games denigrate American Indians in any manner. There has never been a occasion where the Chief Wahoo caricature was used in some sort of manner to rally hate towards American Indians.

    I’d think the fans doing the “tomahawk chop” at both professional baseball games and college football games are doing far more stereotyping and demeaning of American Indians then the Chief Wahoo character. And of course, I wonder why the media is not up in arms about the symbols of Notre Dame and the Boston Celtics – telling us how “racist” and “stereotypical” it is of Irish people (they’re not all short and wearing green all the time)….who were persecuted vehemently in this country for years.

    Look at the bright side. The owners and front office of the Cleveland Indian baseball team have run a proud 1990’s organization into the ground. Baseball fans in NE Ohio have passed the point of anger, and are now apathetic – they should finish last in attendance in the major leagues next year, with local TV ratings continuing to plummet. Meanwhile, those fans are being told that the symbol of their team is “racist” – which infers that a team they’re some sort of awful people for accepting this symbol or their team. This is more then well-meaning fans can take. So the good news is that MLB can move the team out of Cleveland and change it’s nickname wherever it winds up.

    Until then I’d like to speak about how upset I am that southerners that lost relatives in the Civil War have to read about “Yankees”. As an animal right activist I’m not too thrilled about “Lions”, Tigers” “Bengals”, “Panthers”, “Ravens” and “Bears” (and their symbols), nor do I think it is right to stereotype all people in Green Bay as “Packers” when in fact many of the people in the area are trained accountants, executives, musicians and artists. And how about the names “Bucs”, “Raiders” and “Pirates”? Shouldn’t the descendants of of pirates – many resorting to doing it to survive in an unfair world – be upset at the way they’re being depicted…..and about “Vikings”…..and don’t even try to get me started on “Angels” and what that REALLY means, and how offensive that name is to atheists in America……

  25. sj39 - Sep 27, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    Nothing offends me more than self-rightous, liberal writers like youself. You should write Op-Ed not sports.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Sep 27, 2012 at 8:39 AM

      I presume you’d be fine with it if I was offering red meat conservative ideas, yes?

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