Starting inChief Wahoo will no longer be on the field with the Indians. Rusty Bliss started rooting for the Indians when his father took him out of first grade to go to a game.
Since the s , activists have opposed the mascot, arguing it is offensive, discriminatory and harmful to Native Americans.
Pending litigation against MLB and the Cleveland Indians over the discriminatory nature of the logo likely created additional pressure. Many — including some Cleveland fans — heralded the decision as a long overdue.
But other Cleveland fans were upset with the decision.
To them, it has nothing to do with the appropriation of Native American culture. The rebirth of a city and its baseball team From to the late s, few fans paid attention to the Cleveland and its mascot.
They fielded only a handful of winning teams, and the team had no playoff appearances between and Both involved the prominent use of Chief Wahoo. In the s, downtown Cleveland experienced an economic revitalization, while the Indians put together a string of playoff runs.
What explains this fervent defense of the mascot — and the rage felt toward those opposed to the logo? Research demonstrates that sports — particularly professional baseball — are connected to nostalgic feelings for the past.
Pioneering sports marketer and former Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck wrote that baseball should be marketed in a way that creates vivid and lasting memories, evoking feelings that make fans want to return each season. For many, elimination of the mascot is an attack on their personal identities, worldviews and histories.
As cultural anthropologist C. And while largely effective, change would strike at the heart of who they are and what makes the world good. Instead, the way Wahoo is talked about — and debated, and threatened — makes fans think that a symbol like Chief Wahoo is associated with better times.
So how should all of this inform the debate over team mascots?
For example, recent research has detailed how they reinforce stereotypes. At the same time, those who want to get rid of Wahoo should also acknowledge the deep emotions fans feel toward the mascot. Chief Wahoo will remain central to the identity of the team and its devoted fans.