OPINION: 90 years of racism doesn’t go away overnight

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Nicholas Hunter headshot

Nicholas Hunter

It took the Cleveland baseball franchise 90 years, but their infamous Chief Wahoo mascot is now off the teams’ uniforms. In its place will be the block “C” logo, which the team has been integrating into its paraphernalia since 2014.

The writing has been on the wall for a few years now, but in January of this year Cleveland’s front office announced they would be ditching the tasteless caricature of a smiling Native American man.

What seemed to slip through most headlines, though, is that while the uniforms will no longer feature “the Chief,” merchandise sold by the team will.

If you’ve been to the Indians Team Shop in Progressive Field — or any sports team shop, for that matter — a decent amount of the stuff sold is “throwback” material; Old uniforms, former players’ jerseys and everything from mugs to pencils emblazoned with past logos.

In no way are the Indians ditching that level of cash grab, especially with the fan base that exists for the logo.

With the “ban” on the logo, the value only goes up and the cashflow runs deeper for those dedicated to the history of the team.

When the Indians made the World Series two years ago (or decades ago, it sometimes feels) ((especially lately)), we as a city couldn’t cleanly celebrate success like the Cubs could.

“Keep the Chief!” t-shirts shouted along with their wearers.

Instead, we had to sheepishly apologize for the streams of fans outside any given game in redface, wearing faux headdresses and shouting any mildly racist thought that rattles through their heads.

I can’t claim my fandom runs generations deep. My grandma is from Iowa and grew up a Tigers fan. My mom would rather watch the Swiss curling championships than sit through a game of baseball.

But I love baseball. It’s the only sport I played growing up. I turned to the Indians to learn the sport and at 13 years old, Indians baseball became my life. And I was always embarrassed by the logo.

I have the luxury of not having ties to the Chief. My grandfather didn’t wear his dusty old ‘96 World Series sweater every Sunday afternoon. I don’t have an old ball cap with a battered, yellowface caricature on it. No sentimental attachment for me.

But there are some who do have that attachment and, to risk wagging my finger at those people, they have to get with the program.

It doesn’t matter that other sports teams still use racist caricatures of Native Americans. They need to go, too.

It doesn’t matter that someone once told you the name and logo was meant to honor the Native tribes who used to live in Ohio. It’s disrespectful now, just like it has always been.

It doesn’t matter that some Native folks aren’t offended by it. So many more others are.

It perpetuates a horrible stereotype and, for the sake of the team’s respect and history, we as fans need to turn our backs on it.

We can still love the long history of Cleveland baseball without embracing the racist baggage it carries.

Nicholas Hunter is the opinion editor. Contact his at [email protected]