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Native American group plans to file a $9 billion lawsuit against the Cleveland Indians over Chief Wahoo

Jun 25, 2014, 4:11 PM EDT

indians logo

I think my record on the Chief Wahoo thing is pretty clear by now. I’m quite obviously not a fan. But there’s a big, big difference between thinking something is offensive and should be banished to history and thinking that thing actually entitles people to billions of dollars in legal damages. Some folks to whom I’d otherwise be sympathetic are going to learn that pretty quickly.

From Paul Kiska at ABC5 in Cleveland, brought to our attention by Big League Stew:

Robert Roche is the director of the American Indian Education Center and one of the plaintiffs planing to file a federal lawsuit in late July against the Cleveland Indians. The group says the team’s name and the Chief Wahoo logo are racist. The group wants a lot of money to help Native Americans with education, job training and housing.

“We’re going to be asking for $9 billion and we’re basing it on a hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation and profiteering,” Roche said.

Normally it’s folks who support things like Chief Wahoo or the Redskins name who fail to grasp what does and what does not violate one’s rights. One need only search “Redskins” and “freedom of speech” to get a taste of that sort of baloney. Here, however, Roche and the American Indian Education Center are the ones who are missing the point of how things work in this country.

The Cleveland Indians are a private corporation. They, like any other private citizen, can be as offensive as they want to be. They can do more than put a Wahoo patch on their caps and jerseys, in fact! They could have a “We really, really hate Native Americans Day” at Progressive Field and hand out racist literature stamped with “The Cleveland Indians heartily endorse this message because, oh my god, we really hate racial minorities.” Now, I know some people who work for the Indians and know they wouldn’t choose to do that, but legally speaking, they totally could. That sort of freedom — and the corresponding freedom of baseball fans all over to boycott/ostracize them into the Stone Age if they did — is one of the beauties of America.

But do you know who could sue the Indians if they did that? No one. Well, some employees could based on a hostile work environment theory. And Major League Baseball could do whatever it wanted to up to and including any litigation it might choose that is consistent with the team’s and the league’s franchise agreement. But ordinary citizens couldn’t. They don’t have any more right to sue the Indians over Chief Wahoo than they’d have to sue the organizers of a Klan march on the statehouse, a jackwagon yelling things at people on a street corner or your racist uncle who had too many beers last Memorial Day and decided to tell you what he really thinks of that ethnic minority family who moved in down the street. Maybe those folks have some unpopular views, but our legal system protects their rights for good reason.

Of course Robert Roche and the American Indian Education Center likely know this. And I presume they are merely seeking out some headlines in order to draw attention to their cause. But ultimately this sort of stunt is counterproductive as a means of swaying public opinion. A lot of people hate Chief Wahoo and a lot of people love him. But a lot MORE people hate lawyers and litigiousness and are immediately suspect of someone who files — or, in this case, threatens to file — lawsuits against their beloved institutions. Especially ones with little if any legal merit.

Put differently: you’re not helping, dudes. Keep up the protests and the public pressure. Even think about narrow, focused legal action with actual merit such as the trademark challenge the Redskins just lost. But cut it out with the billion dollar damage claims.

105 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. musketmaniac - Jun 25, 2014 at 6:31 PM

    Origins, yea everything has Origins. The children nursery rhyme `pop goes the weasel.` comes to mind. the weasel is actually a term referring to Taylor’s tool. and Pop meant to pawn. the saying got popular as men sold their tools to pay for alcohol and other adult comforts.

    • stoutfiles - Jun 25, 2014 at 11:42 PM

      In the textile industry, a spinner’s weasel was a mechanical thread-measuring device in the shape of a spoked wheel, that accurately measured out yarn by making a popping sound to indicate the correct length had been reached.

      The mind-numbing and repetitive nature of the work is captured in the final line of each verse, indicating that whatever you were doing, or wherever your mind had wandered to, reality was never far away with the weasel to pop you alert again.

  2. janessa31888 - Jun 25, 2014 at 6:36 PM

    Nine billion???!!! The Dolans will be in debt for the rest of their lives. That’s way more than the team is worth.

    • historiophiliac - Jun 25, 2014 at 6:43 PM

      They aren’t getting $9 billion and they know it. Don’t take the figure seriously.

      • rangermania - Jun 25, 2014 at 9:03 PM

        They probably won’t get squat and they may have to pay millions of attorney fees and deservedly so! Maybe real indians don’t like a cheerful smiling indian like Chief Wahoo?

  3. edelmanfanclub - Jun 25, 2014 at 7:03 PM

    If we are getting into ridiculous lawsuits and money that is not entitled. I would like to note I am going to file a lawsuit against the Indians as well. Being that I am an actual Indian (parents are from India) I would like money for the profit they are making off the Indian name! So give me money or change your Mascot to Apu from the Simpsons.

    P.S. I am going to get sued for this comment ? ^

    • rangermania - Jun 25, 2014 at 9:08 PM

      Not for your comment but you may get sued for scalping American jobs!

    • clydeserra - Jun 25, 2014 at 11:41 PM

      how do you feel about the Mumbai Indians cricket team?

  4. ncphilliesguy - Jun 25, 2014 at 7:23 PM

    I’m so glad the term “Phillies” is not ethnically offensive to Craig.

  5. bricktop02 - Jun 25, 2014 at 8:28 PM

    They can buy a lot of firewater with 9 billion.

    • historiophiliac - Jun 25, 2014 at 10:37 PM

      I don’t even think that’s replacement level troll. Try for something more original. Less dumb.

  6. kando53 - Jun 25, 2014 at 8:41 PM

    This kind of ridiculous suit will likely hurt the Redskin whiners position as well, so go for it, lol.

  7. rcali - Jun 25, 2014 at 10:07 PM

    Why not go for a Jazillion Dollars!

  8. mickton - Jun 25, 2014 at 10:25 PM

    Indians should not be allowed to talk or drink

  9. 461deep - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:22 AM

    To have a chance this lawsuit might need to stress racial discrimination in a specific manner or incident/s not just racism on the grounds off a picture you don’t like. Racism is a singular term like murder denoting bad attitude and/or behavior. Courts need to weigh the 5 W’s of such terms and make up-down decisions. An alternate view is that one believes that most Americans aware of his talents and achievements are fans of Jim Thorpe.

  10. Fantasy Football Consultant - Jun 26, 2014 at 6:31 AM

    Your a worm Craig.

  11. mkprz - Jun 26, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    This is simply stupid.
    These native Americans have become the greedy slim ball they once opposed
    Too much fire-water.

  12. mazblast - Jun 26, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    All atheist groups should sue to remove the name “Los Angeles” from its various franchises. The official name of the city is “La Ciudad de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles”, a clear reference to the Virgin Mary. No Padres, no Angels.

    While they’re at it, get rid of San Francisco, San Diego, and St. Louis, since saints are an artificial construct of the Church.

    I made these suggestions a few years ago to my best friend from college (ironically, a Catholic institution), who edits one of the largest secular humanist publications in the country. He looked at me and said, “If you say that to the wrong person in our offices, it could happen. Some of my colleagues are terrific but crazy.”

  13. jollyjoker2 - Jun 26, 2014 at 11:29 PM

    so what they are saying is that as I am a white guy..I can sue the Mexicans as soon as we get enough illegals.

  14. musketmaniac - Jun 27, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    MAZBLAST I Like you style. At what point can we start beating these degenerate priests down in the street.

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