News

Native Americans pressing Nike to ax Chief Wahoo

Native Americans pressing Nike to ax Chief Wahoo

Cleveland Indians logo Photo: KPUG/Courtesy of Major League Baseball and the Seattle Mariners.

GOSIA WOZNIACKA, Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Native American group is calling on Nike Inc. to stop producing and selling products that feature the Cleveland Indians’ mascot Chief Wahoo, which it calls a “grotesque caricature” of modern Indians.

The logo, which appears on some team caps and jerseys, depicts a grinning, red-faced cartoon with a feather headband.

The group, called Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, is planning a protest at Nike’s Oregon headquarters in Beaverton this week and is running a social media campaign using the #Dechief hashtag.

“The fact that Nike is selling items that feed into the hostility toward Native Americans is really troubling,” said the group’s co-founder, Jacqueline Keeler. “Major businesses profit off of caricatures of our people. It would not be acceptable for any other group to be portrayed like this.”

Nike did not immediately return a call for comment regarding the mascot protest. Supporters of the logo say it’s not racist and should be respected because it is part of the team’s history.

The group’s effort is part of a larger national debate over use of Native American names and logos in sports — imagery that many consider offensive.

Hundreds of high school and college teams across the country have done away with their Native American nicknames. But many others have steadfastly held to their mascots and logos, prompting continuing protests.

Lawmakers in Oregon this year eased up on a ban on Native American mascots, opening the door for some schools to keep them.

Native Americans have been protesting Chief Wahoo for years.

In January, the Cleveland Indians made the Chief Wahoo logo less visible and gave more prominence to the block letter “C” for Cleveland, though the team denied it was demoting Wahoo. There were no changes to the uniforms, with Wahoo’s face remaining on the team’s home cap and on the sleeve of all the team’s jerseys — and opponents say they want the caricature completely gone.

Keeler’s group is going around the team owners and targeting companies that produce teams’ gear, starting with Nike.

Nike also runs a fund that promotes Native American sports and recreation programs, paid for by the sale of footwear designed specifically for and with the help of the Native American community.

But Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry says it wants Nike to be more consistent with its commitment to diversity. In addition to Chief Wahoo products, the company sells branded merchandise for the Washington Redskins football team and for Florida State University, both of which use Native American imagery.

Keeler, who was born in Cleveland but moved to Oregon as a preschooler, said her parents participated in marches to protest the Chief Wahoo logo. She co-founded Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry six months ago during football season, to help in the campaign to pressure the NFL’s Washington Redskins to change the nickname because it is offensive to Native Americans.

Native mascots and logos such as Chief Wahoo lead to skewed perception and bad judgment about contemporary Native Americans, who are multiracial and hail from tribes that have unique histories and laws, Keeler said.

“It hinders people’s ability to see Native Americans as human beings, to know our diverse cultures and our issues,” Keeler said. “All people see is the stereotype of Indians with feathers. It makes it more difficult to accept tribes as they are today and prevents people from getting to know us.”

Studies have shown that Indian mascots and logos have a negative impact on the self-esteem of American Indian children, and the American Psychological Association has called for the retirement of all Native-themed imagery.

“We want to finally make red face unacceptable, the way black and yellow faces are unacceptable,” Keeler said.

Jordan Wilhelms, a Cleveland Indians fan who grew up in Cleveland and now lives in Portland, said some people rationalize keeping the logo, because they have become desensitized by wearing it all their life.

“I grew up with it, wearing it, going to games. But as an adult, it’s easier to see that it’s largely stupid and irresponsible to have an officially sanctioned logo that’s beyond offensive,” Wilhelms said. “It’s an inherently racist logo. I think the team should get rid of it.”
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Recent Headlines

in Sports

NL Wild Card: Bumgarner, Giants silence Pirates

Fresh
San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner waits his turn in the batting cage at PNC Park in Pittsburgh during a team workout Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Bumgarner gets the start against Pittsburgh Pirates' Edinson Volquez in Wednesday night's National League wild card baseball game in Pittsburgh.

The San Francisco Giants routed the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-0 on Wednesday night in the National League wild-card game.

in Sports

Dunn retires following a 14 year career

Oakland Athletics' Adam Dunn leans against the batting cage before the start of the AL wild-card playoff baseball game against the Kansas City Royals Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo.

Following the Athletics loss to the Kansas City Royals in the A.L. Wildcard game, Adam Dunn told ESPN that he has played his final game.

in Sports

Report: Paul Molitor, Twins set to meet

Minnesota Twins coach Paul Molitor is seen in the dugout during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, Saturday, May 10, 2014.

Molitor has never managed in the majors or minor leagues but has extensive coaching experience since leaving baseball as a player.

in Sports

Brady tries to keep even keel during slow start

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) warms up on the sideline during the third quarter of an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, in Foxborough, Mass.

Tom Brady tries not to get too high when things are going well or too low when they're not.

in Sports

Hoke says Gardner will start against Rutgers

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke shouts trying to flag down a referee on the sideline in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Appalachian State in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. Michigan won 52-14.

After QB Shane Morris on the field following a hit to the head last weekend, Michigan coach Brady Hoke took responsibility for the program's breakdown in communication

Bellingham Traffic