Point/Counterpoint pt1

Erin Roof

Native Americans are people, not mascots

The American public has been conditioned by the sports industry to regard jibes at Native American culture as fun and harmless entertainment. Mariners are fun. Red Sox are harmless (I mean, what are Red Sox, anyway?). But to poke fun and belittle a historically rich ethnic group is more than degrading — it’s inexcusable.

The thrill of the chase — isn’t that what sports are supposed to be about? Adrenaline, expensive hot dogs, crazy men who brave sub-zero temperatures with bare, painted chests just to be the fourth letter in their favorite team’s name? Racism shouldn’t have to be involved to enjoy watching a home run.

Chief Wahoo gets much of the brunt of the racist logo debate. But it isn’t just the red-faced, buck-toothed, big-nosed caricature that hurts people. It goes deeper than his offensive looks.

Chiefs are the highest political position in Native American society. To have a chief as the Cleveland Indians’ logo is like selling thousands of jerseys with President Bush’s beady-eyed face on the front, then laughing during the game when the rival mascot hits him on the head with a four-foot long felt nuclear missile. (Well, that might be kind of funny, but you get the point.)

Aside from that, sports fans would be outraged if a team was named the “Boston Blacks,” the “New Jersey Jews” or, God forbid, the “West Virginia Whities.” Yet we accept the Cleveland Indians, the Washington Redskins, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Braves.

We wouldn’t dare offend people of other ethnicities in such a way. So what the sports industry is saying is that the Native American race should be less respected than all others.

But this pattern of thinking is no surprise when considering our centuries of mistreatment toward Native Americans. We pushed them through the Trail of Tears onto fragments of what was once their land. We forced our laws and our way of life on them. We killed their buffalo, and we tried to kill their pride. They were the focus of the first wave of racism through this country, but this age of exploitation is still going on. The only thing we could not steal from them is their identity, which we have exploited on billboards and bright lights in cities across the country.

I’m not much of a sports fan. I used to watch Cincinnati Bengals games with my father when I was little, but it was just because I liked their pants. I couldn’t catch, punt or throw a ball to save my life. But the issue doesn’t just concern sports freaks. Every one of us should be appalled. In a country as diverse as ours, we must all work to understand and appreciate the cultures around us.

Athletics are a distinct example of America as a “melting pot.” People of all different ethnicities gather to play. It’s one of the few areas where people are judged by their merit alone instead of by the color of their skin. Sports teams shouldn’t make a mockery of these ideals by using racially offensive logos.

Let’s send Chief Wahoo and his friends to the dugout for good.

Erin Roof is a junior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].