Skip to content

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Video: Major League Baseball celebrates Independence Day

    Jul 5, 2015, 10:32 AM EDT

    Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks Getty Images

    Check out this wrap-around style montage of all the July 4 action in Major League Baseball …

  2. Josh Hamilton may be headed back to the disabled list

    Jul 5, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    Josh Hamilton AP

    Josh Hamilton has a .954 OPS in 10 games with the Rangers. The problem is he’s only played in 10 games.

  3. Settling the Score: Saturday’s results

    Jul 5, 2015, 8:53 AM EDT

    C.J. Cron AP

    The best fireworks on July 4 came from the Angels.

  4. Rangers option Chi Chi Gonzalez back to Triple-A

    Jul 4, 2015, 11:55 PM EDT

    Chi Chi Gonzalez Chi Chi Gonzalez

    Chi Chi Gonzalez posted good results in his first seven major league starts, but he’ll cede his rotation spot to Matt Harrison and head back to Triple-A.

  5. Video: Kris Bryant hits a grand slam as part of a two-homer, six-RBI night

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:45 PM EDT

    Kris Bryant AP

    Kris Bryant had a monster night at the plate on Saturday against the Marlins.

  6. Marlins option Jarred Cosart to Triple-A, will activate Michael Morse on Sunday

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:26 PM EDT

    Jarred Cosart Jarred Cosart

    Jarred Cosart had a rough outing on Saturday and will try to straighten things out at Triple-A.

  7. Orioles activate Jonathan Schoop, option Ryan Flaherty to Triple-A

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:15 PM EDT

    Jonathan Schoop Jonathan Schoop

    The Orioles got Jonathan Schoop back after nearly three months. They sent Ryan Flaherty to Triple-A to make room for him.

  8. Report: The Braves continue to shop Chris Johnson

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:25 PM EDT

    chris johnson getty Getty Images

    The Braves are trying to shop an expensive, ineffective Chris Johnson.

  9. The Twins signed Scott Atchison to a minor league deal

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:07 PM EDT

    Scott Atchison Scott Atchison

    The Twins added some bullpen depth in signing Scott Atchison to a minor league deal.

  10. The Giants attempted to pick off Bryce Harper by bringing in their center fielder

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT

    Bryce Harper Bryce Harper

    The Giants tried to get creative to catch Bryce Harper napping off of second base.

  11. Rockies activate John Axford from the family medical emergency list

    Jul 4, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT

    John Axford John Axford

    John Axford is back with the Rockies, ready to continue closing out games.

  12. Twins move Trevor May to the bullpen to make room for Ervin Santana

    Jul 4, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT

    Ervin Santana Ervin Santana

    Ervin Santana is back. Trevor May’s rotation spot has been freed up to make room for him.

  13. Video: Avisail Garcia robs Chris Davis of a game-tying home run in the ninth inning

    Jul 4, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 31:  Avisail Garcia #26 of the Chicago White Sox runs out a hit against the Boston Red Sox during the seventh inning of the game at Fenway Park on August 31 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Avisail Garcia robbed Chris Davis of a home run. It was as glorious as it sounds.

  14. Cubs place David Ross on 7-day concussion disabled list

    Jul 4, 2015, 5:28 PM EDT

    CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 25: David Ross #3 of the Chicago Cubs works behind the plate during the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field on June 25, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Dodgers defeated the Cubs 4-0. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Ross, 38, is batting .189/.302/.284 over 87 plate appearances this season.

  15. Matt Holliday could rejoin the Cardinals next week

    Jul 4, 2015, 4:25 PM EDT

    matt holliday getty Getty Images

    Matt Holliday has been sidelined since June 8 with a Grade 2 strain of his right quadriceps muscle.

  16. Video: Alex Avila falls into stands to make excellent catch

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:18 PM EDT

    alex avila

    Miguel Cabrera is going to be missed while he’s out with a Grade 3 strain of his left calf, but the Tigers are getting by just fine so far this afternoon against the Blue Jays.

  17. Orioles move struggling Bud Norris to the bullpen

    Jul 4, 2015, 2:42 PM EDT

    BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 29:  Bud Norris #25 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches in the second inning against the Texas Rangers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 29, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Norris has a 6.79 ERA over 11 starts this season.

  18. Woman sues Marlins after shark mascot attack

    Jul 4, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT

    marlins logo wide

    Beth Fedornak claims to have suffered “permanent or continuing injuries in her neck and back” as a result of the mascot’s actions.

  19. Stephen Strasburg exits start with tightness in left side

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:39 PM EDT

    WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 04:  Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the first inning during a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Nationals Park on July 4, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg exited today’s start against the Giants in the top of the fourth inning due to an apparent injury to his left side.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Hamilton (3754)
  2. J. Ellsbury (3361)
  3. M. Moore (3176)
  4. M. Sano (3075)
  5. P. Corbin (3065)
  1. M. Cain (2801)
  2. B. Harper (2690)
  3. S. Gray (2559)
  4. C. Dickerson (2479)
  5. J. Soler (2448)