A nickname is just that — a nickname. And not once, since I became an Indians fan 70 years or so ago, have I considered Native Americans inferior or war-like. Nor did any fan think about Geronimo or Cochise or the Apaches or the Comanches on the warpath. So why now?
A confession: I despise those so-called Native American chants with tomahawk chops fans do at Atlanta Braves baseball games and Florida State football games.
And I couldn’t stand the Noc-a-Homa mascot once employed by the Atlanta Braves.
That, though, has nothing to do with political correctness. The chant-chop is just obnoxious and Noc-a-Homa was even more obnoxious with his stupid antics on the field and his tepee residence near the left field foul pole.
As for the furor over “Chief Wahoo”, the Cleveland Indians red-faced, large-toothed logo, well, I love the guy. At least the Indians don’t dress up a real human being to look like the logo.
Does this make me politically incorrect? In some eyes, probably so. In my eyes, not even close. I am aware of the proud Native American culture and sympathize with the their plight.
And it is for certain they have more problems to consider than team mascots and logos.
Native Americans and their supporters consider Chief Wahoo and the Indians nickname as demeaning and sacrilegious — along with the Atlanta Braves, Florida State Seminoles, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Washington Redskins, the Chicago Black Hawks (a Native American logo) and many more.
It escapes me as to why?
A nickname is just that — a nickname. Why is it demeaning? Not once, since I became an Indians fan 70 years or so ago, have I considered Native Americans inferior or war-like. Never thought about it. Nor did any fan think about Geronimo or Cochise or the Apaches or the Comanches on the warpath.
It is just a nickname. And Chief Wahoo is not a depiction of any Native American. It is a caricature, an identifying logo.
In 1899, the Cleveland team was known as the Spiders. The Robinson Brothers owned the team and they bought the St. Louis Browns. To make the Browns stronger, they transferred most of the Spiders stars to St. Louis, including a guy named Cy Young. The Spiders finished 20-134.
They averaged only 199 fans, so the rest of the National League refused to go to Cleveland because their share of the gate didn’t cover travel expenses. So the Spiders played 101 road games and became known as the Exiles or the Wanderers.
And they changed their name to the Cleveland Naps, not because arachnophobiacs demanded it, but because their manager was Nap Lajoie.
Lajoie was traded to the Philadelphia A’s in 1914 and a new nickname was needed. The franchise asked sports writers to come up with one and they decided on Indians. So, of course, blame the sports writers.
Why Indians? For three seasons in the late 1800s, the team’s star was a Native American named Louis Sockalexis. So they named the team in his honor. Back then, Native Americans were Indians. So should Cleveland rename its baseball team the Cleveland Native Americans? And should they change their logo to a photo of Sockalexis?
That’s how extreme things have become these days. The team was named in honor of a Native American, but it is politically incorrect?
Hey, I’m Irish but I don’t see anything demeaning or sacriligeous about the little green-suited leprechaun the Notre Dame Fighting Irish run up and down the sidelines.
How about Rudy Flyer, the University of Dayton mascot that wears a World War I leather hat on a very large head with a goofy smile? Is that demeaning to pilots?
How about the College of Wooster Fighting Scots? Its logo shows a man in a kilt waving a sword. Is that demeaning to the good folks from Scotland?
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says he plans to meet the Indians owner Paul Dolan, “To discuss Chief Wahoo?” He says he understands the objections but he also he appreciates fans who identify their team with the logo.
Let’s hope he is giving lip service, just as he gave lip service to Pete Rose’s application for re-instatement.
I’ll always think of the Cleveland baseball franchise as the Indians and Chief Wahoo is my friend, just as I’ll always think of Miami University as the Redskins, not the Red Hawks.
After all, they’re just nicknames. Just like the University of California-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs.
I think I’ll start a protest against the Philadelphia Phillies mascot, the Phillie Phanatic. Isn’t he demeaning to large, furry, green bi-pedal creature with extendable tongues? Who’s with me?