Chief Wahoo is the mascot
of the Cleveland Indians
, a Major League Baseball
franchise. In 1948, the Indians' owner, Bill Veeck
commissioned 17-year-old Walter Goldbach
to design a mascot. What was produced can be best described as a caricature
of a Native American
: a red-orange-skinned
, wide-smiling, large-nosed, huge-eyed head with a feather
sticking out, eventually dubbed Chief Wahoo.
Over the next several years, complaints that the image was racist prompted revisions. The image requested by then-owner Nick Mileti in 1973 lasted a decade before being replaced by the current version. Continued outrage currently calls for the complete elimination of the mascot, and sometimes calls for a change in the team's name.
The origin of the mascot is intertwined with the team's name. Formerly the Cleveland Spiders, the team changed its named in 1915. Since 1968 the team claimed the namechange and mascot was in honor of Louis Sockalexis, one of the first Native Americans to play professional baseball. The Penobscot Indian was signed by the Spiders in 1897. An ankle injury eventually ended his career after three seasons. However, research showed then-owner Charles W. Somers solicited names from local baseball writers and their readers, and "Indians" was chosen. In 2000, the team changed the wording in their materials to reflect this.
The mascot continues to adorn Indians merchandise, as well as the official uniforms, which were redesigned in 2002.
In a country that has a museum for an event which did not occur within its boundaries, but does not yet admit responsibility for the slavery and genocide of its own people, it seems odd that this image continues to live on. That it is a part of that country's quintessential sport is an example of the continued problems that country faces, and does not want to admit. As long as that image is perpetuated without the understanding of why it is wrong, I believe that country cannot possibly solve its problems. That a caricature, of all things, is an indicator of this, should be a ridiculous concept, but sadly, is not.