I’ve had a guilty conscience for decades. It’s time to do something about it. So I am. I’m renouncing Chief Wahoo.
Chief Wa-whoooo, you ask?
The Chief is the mascot of the major league baseball team that’s held my passionate loyalty since I first learned where first base is: the Cleveland Indians.
Wahoo is a cartoon depiction of a Native American male with a lone feather sticking out of his hair and a big grin – OK, let’s be honest about it, a huge, demented grin – on his face.
Chief Wahoo looks friendly, not fierce. But the image is still, frankly, demeaning. Chief Wahoo is, in a word, offensive.
I didn’t use to admit that. But, deep down, I must always have thought it.
Let me explain it this way. I root for the Phillies, too. And some nights it seems I’m the only person at the Bank who is isn’t wearing some bit of Phillies red apparel. I just never learned the habit of sporting team colors.
Could it be that, growing up, as I much as loved the Tribe, at some level I always knew at some level that it was wrong to walk around wearing Chief Wahoo.
This issue is much in the news these days because of a renewed effort to get the Washington Redskins NFL team to change its nickname. For the record, Redskins is clearly a more offensive team name than Indians, a name originally picked to honor a star player who was Native American.
But Chief Wahoo – he’s over the top and he’s got to go, just as “Redskins” does.
When this idea is raised, many Cleveland fans moan about political correctness run amok. Chief Wahoo was a big part of my youth, too, but I don’t want to join arms with Southerners who cite nostalgia as an excuse for running the Confederate battle flag up the statehouse flagpole. Nostalgia doesn’t justify making light of slavery or attempted genocide.
I say this as someone who thinks PC has gotten way out of control in our grievance-fueled culture, and who rejects the notion that the judgment of what’s offensive is purely subjective. Still, without letting PC grievance-mongers run wild, our society should be capable of a sober judgment that some crimes are simply too fresh, some evils too big. It’s just not OK to do a crass victory dance on those graves.
The Redskins nickname is that kind of offense. So is Chief Wahoo. They need to go.