Chief Wahoo on borrowed time as 50 Senators sign letter about Redskins name


tribeblockcThe discussions and debates surrounding mascots and team names have gone to Capitol Hill. While there’s still some debate about history, intent and political correctness, the one thing that has become abundantly clear to me is that Chief Wahoo is on the wrong side of history. It’s even more clear to me today considering what’s happening in Washington D.C. as 50 United States Senators have signed on to a letter to the NFL urging them to force a change of the Redskins name.

Dear Commissioner Goodell:

This month, Americans applauded the rapid and decisive reaction from new National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver to the racist remarks of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Commissioner Silver sent a clear message that racism will not stand in the NBA.

Today, we urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message as the NBA did: that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports. It’s time for the NFL to endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C. football team.

The despicable comments made by Mr. Sterling have opened up a national conversation about race relations. We believe this conversation is an opportunity for the NFL to take action to remove the racial slur from the name of one of its marquee franchises…

This is a matter of tribal sovereignty – and Indian Country has spoken clearly on this issue. To this point, we have heard from every national Tribal organization, including the National congress of American Indians, United South and Eastern tribes and the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians. These organizations represent more than 2 million Native Americans across the country and more than 300 Tribes with government-to-government relationships with the United States. These organizations have passed resolutions in support of a name change as they find the Washington D.C. football team name to be racially offensive…

There’s more in the letter, but the point is that regardless of how you think about Wahoo or your own origin story in relation to it, this is the current environment. This is what’s going on in the NFL with the Redskins’ name, but subtract that name and put “Chief Wahoo” in the letter and you pretty much arrive at the same conclusion: Wahoo’s days are numbered.

So, wouldn’t it be better to get out in front of it before another fifty Senators draft a letter to Bud Selig? If this letter is successful and the NFL does intervene with Dan Snyder’s team and force a name change, it will only reflect that much more poorly on MLB, Cleveland and the Indians organization that they’re even later to the party in the face of mounting evidence of an inevitable outcome.

[Related: The Wahoo debate has changed, but where do the Indians stand?]

  • Hopwin

    Upvotes across the board, well-played gentlemen!

  • Craig Lyndall

    There are an awful lot of quotes going on in this series of questions. I like to talk about Wahoo from many different perspectives. I have my personal feelings about it and I’ve expressed them often in posts and podcasts, etc. I decided that today’s version of this story should focus more on the pragmatic part of the issue because it deals directly with a political action by Senators toward another sports mascot. That being the case, it seemed pragmatism should be the focus here.

    So, I don’t know if that answered your question, but I feel as if you’re trying to turn this update post on the topic into my definitive opinion with regard to the entirety of this issue and that’s nowhere near what this was meant to be.

  • cmm13

    sorry, it was meant more as a tongue in cheek comment in relation to John Adams and the bleacher drum.

    even though “beating the drum” is an idiom derived on a political campaign as to draw attention I was using it as an attempt at dry humor.

  • Hopwin

    I nominate this comment of the day.

  • Garry_Owen

    Cleveland Bridesmaids? (“You know, always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”)

  • Garry_Owen

    Cleveland Jobs?
    (Intended to be said like the character in the Bible, but conveniently evoking the “blue collar working man” aspect of Cleveland folklore.)

  • cmm13

    our new starting rotation?

  • Garry_Owen

    Might help the attendance issue, if nothing else.

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    I’d be on board with that.

  • Hopwin

    One of those appears to be a bride.

  • nj0

    Sorry. Just never know who is coming from where sometimes.

  • Amy Amrap

    How about The Cleveland Inclusives?

  • Amy Amrap

    Face it.. any white guy is going to be a racist dick.

  • Amy Amrap

    Honest, in conformity is out strength!

  • Amy Amrap

    The privileged are getting rich on bigotry. Fools. They don’t realize we could be 1%-ers too if we we were willing to abandon our sense of right and wrong.

  • B-bo

    Yes to the logo, no to the name. Cleveland Blues, despite venturing dangerously close to sounding like fans of TSUN.

  • CB Everett

    And regarding the Thome statue, we can build it out of salt as a warning to anyone who turns their back on us! Or something like that.

  • Tron

    I am just curious why one form of racism is met with a visceral denunciation and another is still met with terms like “political correctness”.

    When you say “regardless of what you think about..this is the current environment” it sounds as if you’re implying that racial prejudices should be forgiven in light of political realities. To have such a quote on an update post about the fallout of the Donald Sterling audio tape would seem ridiculous. Wouldn’t it?

    This is a great site and you do a great job Craig. I guess what I’m saying is that our political realities are only formed by our moral imperatives and I would love to see this site at the very front of this issue.

  • Garry_Owen

    That’s Mickey Callaway. The other 5 are the rotation.

  • Garry_Owen

    Is this a joke?

  • cmm13

    PIPE DOWN… he’s rolling.

  • cmm13

    something to replace “die hard night”

  • Lake Erie Monster

    Ever since I heard that our Cleveland baseball team was once called the Spiders, I’ve wished they were called the Spiders once again.

  • RGB

    I see a starting guard for the Browns in there…

  • Hopwin

    Must resist obvious inappropriate joke…

  • Tom_RedRight88

    Here’s at least one American Indian who has a problem with that type of language:

  • Garry_Owen

    CC Sabathia?

  • Tom_RedRight88

    It’s interesting that the senators cited the Donald Sterling case.

    The NBA banned Sterling for something he said in a private conversation that may have been illegally recorded under California law (while looking the other way for years at much more public behavior from Sterling). And while what Sterling may have said is wrong, what he said is in no way illegal.

    If/when Sterling sues the NBA and more dirt comes out about the league, wonder if those same senators will be so quick to sign the praises of Adam Silver?

  • Craig Lyndall

    The short answer is that the two issues of racism being discussed here are very different. While we have blanket stances on racism being bad, I think it’s pretty understandable that not every plight against bigotry is the same. Black civil rights aren’t the same as the plight of the Jews is not the same as the plight of the Native American, is not the same as the fight that gays are fighting for rights.

    While I think people are coming around on the idea that Wahoo is racist, I don’t think everyone who has loved Wahoo since childhood or continues to own Wahoo gear to this day is a racist. The origin story does matter, and perception on the issue of Native Americans has changed and evolved.

    Do you find all instances of racism and bigotry to be exactly the same requiring the exact same action at the exact same level of emergency? Honestly curious.

  • Craig Lyndall

    If the NBA was the one to illegally record the conversations then I’d find that compelling. That girl might have broken the law and she has to deal with that however she needs to deal with it, but once the info comes out and the NBA didn’t have anything to do with its release, it seems only natural that they’d act on it within the guidelines of their business agreement as franchise owners.

    Legal or not, it does appear that the NBA is acting within their rights based on the contract that all owners agreed upon. We’ll see.

  • deebo

    Good. Cleveland Spiders. Already a history there. Cool unis with the Blue and the Block C. No silly spider logo.

  • Tom_RedRight88

    If the NBA can ban an owner for a private conversation, wonder what the NFL can do to an owner facing federal indictments if, in fact, said owner actually is guilty?

    Wait, don’t answer that!

    Also interesting that NBA was so quick to show Sterling the door but apparently has no issue with Orlando owner Rich DeVos.


    I’m all for the Cleveland Steamers

  • nj0

    I guess the lesson here is insulting one or two specific people because of their race is a much bigger issue than insulting an entire group because of their race. Especially when those specific people are really attractive and/or Magic Johnson.

  • tonyisms

    I’ve been a die-hard Indians fan my whole life, but it is unsettling to me that our team is named after a group of people not based on self-association. That reason, along with the hilarity of the history behind the name, led to me becoming an unabashed fan of changing it to “Spiders”. I even got a tattoo:

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Cleveland Onceadecadians

  • Tron

    No I guess I don’t. I could see how different issues require more nuance then others. However, Chief Wahoo is so ridiculously racist that I find it
    hard to hear any tolerance directed its way what so ever.

    I understand the emotional attachment. I
    understand that Wahoo is still an acceptable logo in society today and that WFNY can use this social acceptance as a crutch if it so chooses and defend
    Wahoo (which it doesn’t). I understand
    that many people will accept Wahoo while at the same time reject Donald
    Sterling largely because most people will simply follow social norms.

    The problem is that Native Americans in this country have no political representation and as we all know real power is political power. It’s a question of education and I think WFNY and its writers are more than up for the task.

  • The Astute Linguist

    I came to grips with this a year ago. To me, Chief Wahoo represents our nineties baseball team. I know change is annoying, but we should lay Chief to rest peacefully, before someone forces us to. New team name = Your Cleveland Clevelanders. A Clevelander is tough, gritty and doesn’t take or put up with bologna. The team can still be referred to as ‘The Tribe’ and the block ‘C’ can live on forever.

  • Steve

    I think its just having your insult broadcast by TMZ, which for some reason causes millions of Americans to care about it more than if it was first reported elsewhere.

    Your basic bigoted redlining though (like you said, an entire group) is just an afterthought.

  • heh

    I find it fairly ironic that the letter is from the senate, one of the legislative bodies that does not represent Washington DC.

  • Aj Heller

    Shouldn’t our congress men and women be focusing on “REAL” topics that are troubling our nation instead of trying to be political about everything??? I will ALWAYS wear Chief Wahoo….ALWAYS!

  • Bob

    True, but if there is some sort of ‘moral clause, etc.’ in the agreement/contract between the NBA and NBA owners, than he probably violated it. Free speech is not the same as consequence free speech. Regardless, I’m all for the entertainment that might come from good mudslinging between league officials and owners.

  • Bob

    As a thought experiment, pretend the Cleveland baseball team had always been the spiders. Would it be appropriate for a new 2015 expansion team were to be the ________ Indians with the same colours and chief as their logo?

  • tim gibson

    Indians will run out of things to protest.Remember Jesse Jackson.

  • Renate Jakupca

    ‘People Not Mascots’ Logo is meant to be a Native American protest
    caricature of the racists Chief Wahoo logo of the Cleveland Indians
    Baseball team. It was originally painted by David Jakupca at the
    historic ARK in Berea for
    the Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance along with the
    Lake Erie Native American Council (LENAC) incorporating elements of the Theory of Iceality on Environmental Arts,
    it has drawn criticism from some sportswriters, fans and local
    businessmen, but gained immediate acceptance among humanitarian,
    religious groups and Native Americans. It gained international popular
    attention when it was it exhibited by ICEA at the 1993 UN World
    Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna, Austria and has become one of
    the most recognized anti-racists logo’s in existence. It also caused
    repercussions for the groups connected with using the logo in protest
    demonstrations and this has been documented in the INTERNECINE MATRIX..

    Google Search Link: INTERNECINE MATRIX