Cleveland Indians Step Up to the Plate

Indians logo

Indians logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Cleveland Indians are a professional baseball team. The term Indians is general in the sense that it can be seen as not as offensive in comparison to other sports teams’ mascots. However, the Cleveland Indians have been known for their offensive mascot Chief Wahoo – A caricature image of a red skinned chief.

The depiction of the chief is all but what a chief does not stand for. The image is of a bright red complexion and a feathered headband playing up to Native American stereotypes. This mascot has experience much backlash from the Native American community with picketers at games holding signs saying, “People Not Mascots” or “Stop Teaching Your Children Racism.” While there are people who are protesting the existence of the mascot there are equally as many, if not more supporting its existence.

Today the Cleveland Indians have kept their name but phased out Chief Wahoo due to its offensive depiction of Native Americans. Since then the team has adopted a new mascot by the name of Slider. Slider is a creature of some sort, who is fuzzy purple and yellow character who sports the Cleveland Indians uniform at every game.

The Cleveland Indians are an example of the change of in sports and media. Hopefully the Cleveland Indians will set the trend for other major league sports in the relinquishing of the improper use of Native American symbols and names as mascots.

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The Washington Redskins Controversy

Redskins primary logo 1972-1981, 1983-present

Redskins primary logo 1972-1981, 1983-present (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the 1980s the name of the NFL team the Washington Redskins has been in conversation because of its controversial name. The Redskins are meant to represent Washington D.C. but is located in suburban Maryland.

The term “Redskin” not only is an offensive term to describe Native Americans but it is a term that describes the bounty people received for the pelts or scalps of Native Americans.

The name of the team was given in honor of the 1933 head coach who was a member of the Sioux nations. Despite this, in conversations about the team name Redskin officials barely mention this explanation. Most Redskin officials and fans believe that the name is not meant to be offensive to the Native American people. In other developments the owner of the Redskins does not believe that the team name is offensive and does not intend on changing it.

In addition to this statement the Redskins also have a section on their official team website called “We Are Proud To Be Called Redskins” where they feature high school athletic teams who use the same team name “Redskins.” This piece not only includes highlights but also quotes from school representatives stating that they see no problem with using the name.

English: Santana Moss

Santana Moss (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There have been protest since the 1980s by the remaining Native American population in the district; however, the current population is only made up of 180 people respectively. Recently the discussion over the team name has been revived because of recent developments and events. On Feb. 7, 2013, the first ever symposium at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian opened conversation on racism in sports teams’ names and mascots. There also have been many Native American activists who have taken action to sue the team because of the offensive meaning to the term redskin. Lastly the current Mayor of Washington D.C., Vincent Gray, stated that if the team were to move back to the district, the name would have to be a topic of conversation.

My Take

There is a lack of knowledge on the origins of the term “Redskin” as well as Native American culture. Not finding the term itself or its use of redskin controversial is where there is disconnect with the culture from which it oppresses. Until everyone is familiar with the history behind the term or Native American culture we cannot make an informed stance on the controversy. Regardless of your stance, it is clear that Native Americans find this term offensive and have spoken out against it. I think that because the term redskin is related to this population their opinion on its use is important and should be considered.