OPINION: Cleveland Indians address racist mascot

Photo courtesy of Yahoo! Sports | Guest Writer Patrick McGuire discusses the significance of and the problems associated with the recent Cleveland Indians logo change.

More than a week ago the MLB and the Cleveland Indians announced their mutual agreement to remove the “Chief Wahoo” logo from the team’s uniform. Or so the press releases said.

Though MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred praised the Indians’ move all throughout the press conference, there was a major caveat in the fine print: Cleveland would continue to sell merchandise with the mascot that many have deemed racist. Many problems arise with this revelation. Among the multitude of critics, I posit that this “business decision” announced by Paul Dolan rings incredibly hollow and disingenuous.

Though this announcement was a landmark change in the sports world, it also brought about a firestorm of opinions from fans about the cartoon character that had been the team’s mascot since 1947. On one side of the debate stood baseball fans whose rallying cry was that of preservation of history and tradition.

On the other hand, the most visible opponents were the members of the National Congress of American Indians, who have protested Cleveland games for the last 20 years. Each side of this debate has voiced its displeasure with Manfred and Major League Baseball’s handling of this situation, but can there be a happy medium in this situation?

The short answer is no. These circumstances have become all too familiar recently, most notably with the removal of Confederate army statues in Southern states. The basic framework can be applied to both that by removing these emblems and statues, are we destroying history and heritage, thus becoming revisionists? Again, the short answer is no.

The most significant disconnect between the two respective parties is upon this point, with one side attributing the mascot change to political correctness and the other closing a small chapter of injustice within a long and painful history. The same conclusion that must be reached in both of these examples is history must be exactly that: history. In 2018, there is simply no place in society suitable for these symbols, which represent incredible pain and grief.

Defenders of the “Chief Wahoo” logo who say that the team’s history must be preserved point to early 1900s Native American baseball player Louis Sockalexis, for whom the caricature was drawn. However, what these defenders do not include in their agrument is that teammates and opponents used this logo as an excuse to shout racial slurs at the player. Later, Cleveland fans would don headdresses and face paint to imitate Native American chiefs, which is (unbelievably) still happening today, as most conspicuously seen during the 2016 World Series.

This problem of dormant and unaddressed racism within our society has come to a tipping point as it relates to these issues. However, Dolan and the Cleveland Indians organization are doing the bare minimum to meet with the new guidelines put forth by MLB.

In fact, the Indians organization stands to profit from this disingenuous decision, for many of the team’s fans have gone out of their way to purchase merchandise with the logo still emblazoned on it because those items will no longer be available in the near future.

Though I believe that this change away from “Chief Wahoo” was the right thing to do and has been needed for many years, I am still dismayed with my hometown baseball club and its hypocritical stance on this important issue. There is no doubt in my mind that, come early April as spring begins to bloom and baseball comes back, there will be an indelible stain on a once-proud organization. Though the racist “Chief Wahoo” might no longer appear on the jerseys or hats that the ball players wear, the Cleveland Indians and by extension their fans will have no problem shelling out hundreds of dollars to prolong the racist culture by which they are neither affected nor seem to care about those who are.

Patrick McGuire is a senior Honors Bachelor of Arts major and guest writer for the Newswire from Cleveland, Ohio.