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The story behind that awkward Chief Wahoo confrontation at Progressive Field on Opening Day

Apr 7, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

Chief Wahoo guy

In Cleveland on Opening Day, we were treated to a photo of a guy painted up in red-face confronting an actual Indian protesting Chief Wahoo outside of Progressive Field. The photo was taken by Cleveland Frowns’ Peter Pattakos, who is working with a documentary filmmaker about Chief Wahoo and the “Indians” name. Today he has the full story behind what led to that confrontation and some additional photos. Including a fantastic one of the red-faced fan apparently explaining to the actual Indian why it’s cool for him to dress up in redface.

I think the most interesting thing about it is that the fan does not, based on Peter’s description, seem to be motivated by racism. Which I think is the case with most people who are cool with Wahoo. It’s not about racism for them. It’s that they never put two-and-two together and appreciate that it actually bugs people. When they are forced to — as this fan was here — it’s amazing how soon they become reasonable about the matter. Or at least appear to on the surface.

That’s the thing about Wahoo that those who defend him don’t usually get: no one is saying people who wear it are inherently and necessarily racist. It’s that they’re insensitive and oblivious to the fact that the caricature itself is a clearly racist symbol. It’s the former assumption those who reflexively defend Wahoo are usually defending. The idea that they’re racists. It’s the latter part that they cannot seem to grok.

  1. cur'68 - Apr 7, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    Its been a while since I’ve had the time for HBT so I missed this when it first happened. Allow me to register my official “WTF!”

    Now, with that out of the way, I’d like to step aside to allow what is sure to be a reasoned and enlightened discussion of the matter to unfold in further comments,

    • Francisco (FC) - Apr 7, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      Dagnabit Cur you beat me to it!!!!

  2. Francisco (FC) - Apr 7, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    What a fascinating subject, I’m sure a reasonable and adult conversation will ensue in the comment section.

    • historiophiliac - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      Oh, I’m sure.

      /takes off rings

      • dluxxx - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        Nah, leave em on. You’ll do more damage…

  3. phillies816 - Apr 7, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    The Indian wasn’t there to protest but to “scalp” tickets

    • historiophiliac - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:20 AM

      How is that funny? You know who else used to scalp people? Soldiers. Cowboys. White settlers. I’d await your “funny” about the Anglo Scalpers — but that wouldn’t really be funny either. This is not something you joke about. Did you know that soldiers sometimes cut off the genitalia of Indian women they killed and pinned it to their hats as trophies? There is nothing funny about the US’ shameful treatment of Indians — who were given citizenship AFTER some current baseball teams were organized.

      • Old Gator - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:56 AM

        Ackcherley, gangs of white freebooters hired by Mexican and US territorial governors engaged in murders of native Americans (and on more than one occasion, of Mexican mixed bloods and natives as well) on a massive scale during the mid-19th century. The scalps were their “receipts” based upon which they were paid by the consortia of ranchers and miners who wanted to remove the natives from arable land or areas suspected of harboring mineral deposits. The most famous of them were Long Webster, Michael Chevallie, James Kirker and above all John Joel Glanton, the latter having been made famous by Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian. All of these guys were either military dropouts after the Mexican War or former “law enforcement” officers who saw bigger bucks in trafficking in mayhem like this. We’re not talking about hundreds of murders here; we’re talking about many thousands, including whole tribes and peaceful villages annihilated and “cashed in,” women and children included.

    • hojo20 - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      I hoped the two shared a peace pipe after this confrontation at a nearby teepee.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:58 AM

        The fact that you thought it would be funny to double down on that indicates that you are a callous and intentionally hurtful person. I hope that you get paid back in your considerations in spades. Here’s a thought for you: if you expect kindness and consideration from others, you must be that to them. No one wants to be nice to jerks.

      • hojo20 - Apr 7, 2014 at 1:12 PM

        You used the word spades. That’s racist.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 7, 2014 at 1:14 PM

        Aaaand, you’re still not funny.

      • clemente2 - Apr 7, 2014 at 1:40 PM

        hojo–if you plant ice, you’re gonna harvest wind

      • Francisco (FC) - Apr 7, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        Someone is confusing the phrase “in spades” with the old term “spade”. Reading comprehension is important.

    • Barry's Triceps - Apr 7, 2014 at 12:19 PM

      Lay off the jokes on Native Americans, son. Native Americans have contributed a ton to baseball: why do you think they stop selling liquor after the 7th inning?

      “Name the Washington Redskins the Washington Rednecks. The Cowboys could move over as being America’s team. Make their team colors camo, and watch merchandise sales explode. If America will eat up the Larry the Cable guys and Duck Dynastys of the world, I’m pretty sure this is the only evidence I need to support this claim.” -a wise man

      • Barry's Triceps - Apr 7, 2014 at 12:29 PM

        The 1% percenters owned slaves. Not every white man was on the warpath to go wipe out the Indian race. But since we are supposed to remember these things every single day, why not just name the team the Cleveland White Oppressors? Would that finally make holier than thou historio and gator happy?

        Where did the Arab people get their land from? Where did the Jews get Palestine from before that? Was there not a Persian empire, a Greek Empire, a Mongol empire, Chinese empire? Someone has been killed for every piece of land on this earth. If you want to get real scientific, every homo sapien on this planet is guilty because we wiped out the Neanderthals.

        If you have a problem with Charles Darwin, evolution, or the scientific method keep your crackpot theories of fairness and white guilt off the internet. Im sorry for survival of the fittest. I didnt make the universe.

        Dont worry im not saying whites or humans are the best. Whenever someone else finds this rock, they will wipe us out for these resources just like humankind wiped each other out for years. It is the circle of life.

      • yahmule - Apr 7, 2014 at 12:42 PM

        A little information is a dangerous thing and you possess very little information.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 7, 2014 at 1:02 PM

        You believe in Social Darwinism???? I can’t even. Did you sleep through the last century or something? You know one of our great qualities as human beings is that we are able — through our intelligence — to make a society that protects the weaker among us. It is something for us to be proud of. Having said that, white people are by nature no fitter than others and if you think that our past ability to oppress others is a sign of superiority, you are very warped. Perhaps you have been hit in the head too many times by those you shared your theories with.

      • spudchukar - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:53 PM

        Hey Triceps, stick to third grade arguments, your venture into “science” reflects your inability to understand even the simplest of concepts.

        The Neanderthal comment is both ignorant and incorrect.

        The Darwin/Evolution one, is so ridiculous you embarrass yourself.

        The inclusion of scientific method has little connection to this conversation.

        Please instruct me as to how genocide shouldn’t result in guilt. You suck at basic psychological inferences also.

        Alien invasion for resources. Yeah that follows. The intelligence to travel at light speed, but not employ basic chemistry is doubtful.

        And in your closing line, you omitted the term “jerk” following circle.

  4. tfbuckfutter - Apr 7, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Oh sure, it’s soooo racist, but if I put on a jackass costume it’s not offensive to these people?

    • tfbuckfutter - Apr 7, 2014 at 10:48 AM

      By “these people” I mean the Wahoo supporters.

      Not the Native Americans.

      • CJ - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:09 AM

        Not sure “these people” would find that offensive. Some of them might find it humerous depending on the context. Now if Ritzville, Washington had a minor league called the Crackers, and some guy in a jackass costume and a giant cracker where the mascots, then, maybe, that would incite outrage. Maybe.

        I think as a white person though, even that might be a stretch if you’re trying to equate the two. You can’t come up with a racial equivalent for a white person to help them understand, because it’s not just about an offensive costume. It’s about the degrading and the oppression and all that stuff that was endured by the affected race for generations behind it. That’s what “white people” (I think I can say that since I am one) cannot understand here. Anyone who is is most likely lying (not 100%, I’m sure there are exceptions out there someplace). I get why some people don’t think it’s offensive, but what those might not understand is that this isn’t about them, and it’s not their call to make. If those cariciturized (sp?), in the logo/mascot are offended, then it’s (you guessed it) offensive. I can’t tell an African American or Native American what they can and can’t find offensive. That’s absurd.

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        Umm….I know.

        I was calling them jackasses and using the stupid “What about White Chicks? derrr derr” argument.

      • timmmah10 - Apr 7, 2014 at 1:00 PM

        cariciturized (sp?)

        … wow. You almost had it!

  5. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    On some level I suppose all caricatures could be labeled offensive/racist/discriminatory. And I think the line has not stood still over time. What was considered acceptable at one point is no longer considered acceptable at a different point, even when the reasoning is fairly irrelevant.

    So while I agree that the Indians (and the Redskins) should probably change, I wonder what the future holds with this. Will the “Fighting Irish” be next? The Cowboys and the Texas Rangers can’t be very popular with those of American Indian or Mexican descent. Can those Brewers and their 19th Century European mascot continue? Buccaneers/Pirates glorify violence and lawlessness?

    On the flip side, “Yankee” was a pejorative term that eventually gained acceptance. Perhaps a team can be named after the “N-Word” in future generations.

    • gmagic9044 - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:22 AM

      Very well stated. I think you also need to put into this discussion the Braves, though they have made minor strides in recent history (save the attempt to bring back the Screaming Indian) with removing Chief Noc-A-Homa and Princess Win-A-Lotta from their kennel of mascots.

    • historiophiliac - Apr 7, 2014 at 12:54 PM

      The difference, of course, is that a merely “insulting” name — and I’m not sure Yankee qualifies — is not of the same sort as a pejorative that was coupled with brutal oppression and discrimination. The latter are the kind that deserve immediate attention. (I’m not sure that pirates are ever going to be dropped from our lexicon, but I don’t think the Texas Filibusteros would ever fly, for good reason.)

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:42 PM

        I think the leaders of the American Revolution may not view the term “Yankee” with the same quaint affection with which we view it today. And I suppose that is the point. At one point, describing a person as “colored” or “black” was the polite terminology, but now that would land someone in hot water. Likewise, I have witnessed people taking offense at “African-American” when the person in question is neither. While people seem to take offense to Wahoo now, I imagine the name ‘Indians’ itself will soon be the subject of similar contemplation. Unless they plan on a Bollywood makeove, which would be truly progressive.

        I think we should strive for greater sensitivity to the feelings of our fellow human beings. Sports teams should be for fun, and if the team’s name or mascot is offensive to some group it deserves some examination. But these things evolve perhaps faster than the flexibility of sports loyalty. Nobody has a hot dog with their grandpa at a “Native Americans” game, so nobody looks forward to taking their own grandkid to do the same. The nostalgia/loyalty factor is working against this current evolution of cultural sensitivity. People are invested in sports and its symbols. I suppose the possibility of being offensive makes contemplating change a worthwhile endeavor, but such change carries an emotional toll also.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:53 PM

        My point is that white people insulting other white people is not the same as white people (with their history of oppression of certain groups) having derogatory names for the people they abused and discriminated against. There already is quite a bit of discussion re: black v. African American and Indian v. Native American (and Hispanic v Latino). Really, if you stop and think about it, there’s something odd about having mascots at all — and using certain groups in particular for them. Perhaps someday we will evolve to the point that we associate our teams with things we do, rather than groups of people.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 8, 2014 at 9:53 AM

        While there is certainly horrific history of white-on-non-white oppression, why is that worse than white-on-white or black-on-black oppression? There are sufficiently horrible examples of all sorts of oppression, and ranking them seems beside the point.

        It does seem that we are moving to a mascot-free existence (though I am not sure who would be offended by the Phanatic, other than those with sense and taste). It is probably a good thing. Once we depict another group of people as something “other” than ourselves, the tendency is to think of them as “other” than human in some way. Such perception enables discrimination or worse.

      • dluxxx - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        “The Minnesota Shovelers”…

      • historiophiliac - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        Better than the “Homebounds.” lol

      • dluxxx - Apr 7, 2014 at 4:11 PM

        Well, there’s so many things that we could be shoveling…. Mostly snow, but often manure… That’s why most of us have brown eyes. We’re all full of it…

  6. nolanwiffle - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Grok me? Grok you!

  7. historiophiliac - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    Craig, you are far more generous than I am regarding people’s intentions here. How they can don that stuff and not realize it’s racially derogatory — well, I think they’d have to be brain-dead or intentionally cruel. In this guy’s case, I think he wasn’t thinking at all — and then once he was put in the situation where he had to, he realized what a jackass he was being. I wish he’d immediately apologized but it’s human nature to get defensive when you know you’re in the wrong. His comments suggest that he’ll probably come around in the end, and that would be a great thing. I just wish everyone was that teachable.

    • Bob Loblaw - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:00 PM

      Because unlike you, Craig is level-headed and not looking to label someone a racist in every single act. If the guy legitimately doesn’t think he is being racist, then who are you to call him a racist? Stupid? Maybe. But maybe when he isn’t wearing red face when supporting his baseball team he is Big Brother to a young Asian-American and a young African-American kid. Maybe he donates money to the NAACP every year. Maybe unlike you, he is color blind. Maybe he doesn’t see where dressing as he did is racist. If he wears the same outfit again…then he’s a racist. No doubt. But the first time ordinary people would give him the benefit of the doubt. Not everybody immediately sees one picture and calls the guy a racist…only racists like the Reverends Al and Jesse…and you I guess.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 8, 2014 at 12:00 AM

        Yes, because people who make fun of people of other races are notorious for owning up to being racist.

        This dude is not colorblind. He is insensitive.

  8. tfbuckfutter - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    I would think someone named Pedro Rodriguez living in the Midwest might be at least slightly aware of the sensitivity people can have toward stereotypes.

  9. chiadam - Apr 7, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    So many questions…did that guy buy a t-shirt and write the names of Indian baseball players on it? what part of a red-faced Indian named Chief Wahoo isn’t clearly offensive? Do native Americans even say “wahoo”?

  10. yahmule - Apr 7, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    I think the mental disconnect required for somebody to see these pictures and still play the “white guilt” card is staggering.

    • historiophiliac - Apr 7, 2014 at 1:18 PM

      That’s why I think it’s intentional.

  11. Kevin Gillman - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    If the Indians were to get rid of Chief Wahoo, I get the sense that you guys would still bitch about something concerning the Indians, or anything else. So whatever. I just don’t care anymore. Let’s talk baseball, how about them Tigers….4-1.

  12. steelhammer92 - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    Liberal Craig, pushing his agenda yet again.

    I’m 1/4 Irish. Every time I see that mean looking little leprechaun at Notre Dame games, I get 1/4 offended.

    • spudchukar - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:39 PM

      Making you still 3/4 inane.

    • tfbuckfutter - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      As someone who isn’t Irish at all I feel like I should point out that it’s not offensive at all and you should stop whining.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:25 PM

        I call BS on that one anyway.

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 7, 2014 at 4:18 PM

        Well yeah, but if I say I’m also 1/4 Irish then I’m just “one of the Native Americans who doesn’t have a problem with it.”

        So you see why I had to lie. To make a point. And then it’s ok.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 7, 2014 at 4:55 PM

        I meant him! I don’t think he gets offended at all.

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 7, 2014 at 5:14 PM

        Probably because he’s always 1/4 drunk.

        (I can say that because I am too)

      • asimonetti88 - Apr 7, 2014 at 5:22 PM

        Just curious, but why is it not considered offensive?

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 7, 2014 at 5:27 PM

        Because no one is offended. Irish people like it. They embrace it. Whatever the reason, no one finds it offensive.

        Not to mention there is very little Irish-prejudice present in today’s culture. If they were still an immigrant group that got pushed around like they did in the late 1800s it’d be different.

        But they are a group that has integrated into society that people don’t look down on them.

        They also may have been pushed around, but they weren’t slaughtered. And there aren’t a lot of mocking, and abusive caricatures you can point too. We don’t use the term “mick” anymore.

      • asimonetti88 - Apr 7, 2014 at 6:45 PM

        I do not know enough about Chief Wahoo and its implications to comment on that, but I do know that many Native American communities embrace the Redskins in similar ways to what you described the Irish communities embracing Notre Dame.

        It just seems to me that double standards should not be set up when considering racism.

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 7, 2014 at 7:08 PM

        Uh-huh.

        I think you mistook this site for PFT.

        Daniel Snyder was just here looking for you.

      • asimonetti88 - Apr 8, 2014 at 12:24 AM

        Umm… when did I say I support the Redskins?

        I just don’t understand why it’s ok for Fighting Irish? I’ve just been surprised lately that there seems to be a permeating belief that it’s ok for racism against Caucasian ethnic groups simply because there is not the same history of prejudice against them as some minority groups.

        I’m a strong believer in consistency. In my eyes, racism is racism is racism. Diversity is about differences between individuals, not groups. If stereotyping ethnicities, it doesn’t matter what the history of prejudice against them is, you’re judging someone by something they cannot control (their skin color and bloodline) not by who they are as a person.

    • Bob Loblaw - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:03 PM

      Wait what? If anything Craig is pushing a more even-keeled agenda than a radical Liberal one. Look to other posts here just flat-out calling the guy a racist even though he says he didn’t think it was offensive to find the radicals.

  13. sophiethegreatdane - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    If I’ve learned one thing in my time on this spinning rock, it’s that the threshold of morality is constantly pushed forward by societal pressures. Ideas that were once common-place and accepted, will soon be questioned. If it is shown that the idea has roots in hate/bigotry/misogyny etc. the idea will be jettisoned, and those who have not crossed the threshold will be left behind to boil in their own anger, while the rest of us pelt them with rotten tomatoes.

  14. guinsrule - Apr 7, 2014 at 4:51 PM

    If it weren’t for these naming disputes, would Native Americans/Indians hold any relevance in today’s society? Not trying to be funny, but really, aside from a bus with senior citizens crashing on the way to a casino, ask yourself when’s the last time you heard a story about Native Americans/Indians on the news that wasn’t about offensive sports traditions…

    • historiophiliac - Apr 7, 2014 at 4:57 PM

      You must live under a rock then (and most especially not in Oklahoma or some place with a substantial Indian population).

  15. Dogsweat - Apr 7, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    Cleveland Bravehearts 2015.

    • gloccamorra - Apr 7, 2014 at 9:34 PM

      That’s Atlanta’s backup name. Cleveland might use Erie’s, or Lakers, since the L.A. Lakers were originally in Minneapolis and were named after all the lakes in Minnesota. They, in turn, should change their name to Tar Pits.

  16. disgracedfury - Apr 7, 2014 at 6:45 PM

    I like how certain oblivious white people try to explain how things like RedSkins,Indians certain colleges with Indian mascots or traditions aren’t racist but a sign of respect.

    Defend the country,your wife,kids but not racist sports logos.Sports aren’t the most important thing and so what if they change the logo who cares.Maybe that’s why the Indians haven’t won a world series since before the civil right movement even started.

    • Kevin Gillman - Apr 8, 2014 at 12:02 AM

      Yeah, that’s why and it had NOTHING to do with having many bad teams, right?

  17. anxovies - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:59 PM

    Exactly where in the Constitution of the United States does it require anybody to be sensitive?

  18. blabidibla - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/adriancarrasquillo/this-2002-cartoon-is-eerily-similar-to-what-actually-happene

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