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Chief Wahoo, Indians under scrutiny by Native American group

Cleveland IndiansWith the NFL’s Washington Redskins losing trademark protection, a Native American group plans on suing the Cleveland Indians for $9 billion in damages because of the team name and Chief Wahoo logo.

It’s no secret the Chief Wahoo logo is offensive to many: the Indians have downplayed its use in recent years and removed it from caps, while Native American groups have called for its retirement.

But the lawsuit goes farther than just calling for Chief Wahoo to be gone; it asks that that the Indians name be retired and $9 billion in damages be paid out. From CBS:

Robert Roche, a Chiricahua Apache and director of the American Indian Education Center, is planning to file a federal lawsuit in late July against the Cleveland Indians organization. Roche, who is also the leader of the group People Not Mascots, says the lawsuit will challenge that the team’s name and Chief Wahoo logo are racist.

“We’re going to be asking for $9 billion and we’re basing it on a hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation and profiteering,” Roche told WEWS-TV. “It’s been offensive since day one. We are not mascots. My children are not mascots. We are people.”

Now, we’re talking two very different issues here. Chief Wahoo is a pretty terrible Indian caricature and should go away. (Indeed, other protesters have called for Wahoo to go, but didn’t call for the Indians name to go.) The Indians name, on the other hand, would seem to be a pretty neutral mark, and it’s hard to see this lawsuit as anything other than a publicity stunt. The next obvious play in baseball: the Atlanta Braves, whose marks perpetuate the image of the Indians as a bloodthirsty savage with the tomahawk chop.


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