A Native American group protested outside one of the most anticipated World Series baseball games to decry what has been described as the most offensive logo in US sports – the “Chief Wahoo” caricature used by the Cleveland Indians.
The long-standing logo, which appears on their team jerseys, depicts a grinning, red-faced cartoon with a feather headband.
Hundreds of Native American activists staged their protest as the game was played out on Tuesday at the Progressive Field baseball park – the first of seven matches between the rivals and the first World Series game for the Cleveland Indians in two decades.
“What we hope to accomplish is to bring new awareness to this issue and have it resolved by eliminating the name and the logo,” Civil rights activist Philip Yenyo had told Al Jazeera ahead of the protest.
Similar protests have been over the years, often on the opening day of major games.
‘We’re a living culture’
“From my point of view, there’s a lot of money to be made off of what I believe is the blood of a culture. They [Cleveland Indians club] also claim that they have a history, that they want to preserve. For me, I believe that their history is full of genocide,” said Yenyo.
Last week, an Ontario judge quashed a last-minute attempt to bar the Cleveland Indians from using their team name and “Chief Wahoo” logo during Monday night’s playoff game in Toronto.
Two years ago, the Cleveland Indians replaced “Wahoo” as their primary logo with a red “C”. The home uniform, however, still features the caricature on caps and sleeves.
“I can’t support a team that continues to harm people in this way. I just can’t, it’s not in me to support them, so go Cubs!” Yenyo said.
Other clubs also use logos featuring racist depictions of Native American characters, from the Washington Redskins and Chicago Blackhawks to the Atlanta Braves.
“I think they’re offensive. I don’t believe that any group of people should be used as mascots. We’re human beings, we’re a living culture … our ancestors have passed down knowledge to us and our spiritual beliefs,” said Yenyo.
The “Chief Wahoo” character wears an “eagle feather that is very sacred to our people”, he added.
To use such a symbol for entertainment “would be like me desecrating the cross for Christians or the star of David, or any other images or logos or icons of a particular religion”.