Native American group asks Nike to stop selling Chief Wahoo gear


The Native group "Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry" called on Nike to stop selling Cleveland Indians merchandise featuring the Chief Wahoo logo.
The Native group “Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry” called on Nike to stop selling Cleveland Indians merchandise featuring the Chief Wahoo logo.

By Allan Brettman |
April 28, 2014

A Native American group on Monday called on Nike to stop producing products with that feature the Cleveland Indians’ mascot Chief Wahoo.

“We ask that Nike live up to its dedication to inclusion,” says a news release issued by the group called “Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry.” The release says the group includes “Native parents and their allies from across the country.”

“Profiting from Native Mascotry is not being diverse; it is not being inclusive,” the news release says. “Selling items, such as a zip-up jacket, that is dually marked with “Chief Wahoo” and the Nike ‘Swoosh’ makes a powerful allied statement about Nike’s stance. It strongly suggests that Nike is excluding legitimate Native American concerns about the derogatory and offensive nature of Native stereotyping.”

The news release also notes that Nike sells branded merchandise for the Washington, D.C., football team and Florida State University, both of which use Native imagery.

The news release says the group Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry “will be holding local protests at the Nike World Headquarters this week in Beaverton, Oregon and conducting a social media campaign to trend the #Dechief hashtag begun by Cleveland Indians fan Dennis Brown.

The release was written by Jacqueline Keeler of Portland, who recently wrote in in an article titled “My life as a Cleveland Indian: The enduring disgrace of racist sports mascots.”

Neither Nike nor the Cleveland Indians responded immediately to requests for comment Monday morning.

Keeler said in a follow-up email Monday morning that the organization has more than 600 members in a Facebook group. She said the group also has received support from the National Congress of American Indians and from Asian American allies at 18 Million Rising and Hyphen Magazine.

— Allan Brettman

Demonstrators to target Chief Wahoo at Cleveland Indians home opener

By Mark Naymilk, Northeast Ohio Media Group

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Native Americans and others who believe the Cleveland Indians’ mascot, Chief Wahoo, is a demeaning caricature plan to demonstrate outside Progressive Field on Friday during the baseball team’s home opener.

Organizers behind the demonstration have tried to rally people against Wahoo on opening day for more than 20 years, though team owners and baseball fans have generally ignored them. In some years, only a handful of demonstrators have stood with signs against Wahoo.

Organizers hope to find greater support this year because of the renewed attention Wahoo has received in the growing national debate over sports mascots and names sparked by the NFL’s Washington Redskins’ controversy.

The Plain Dealer editorial board recently called on the Cleveland Indians’ owners to drop the smiling, big-toothed, big-nosed cartoon Indian, which has been used for more than 60 years.

Ferne Clements, who has helped organize the demonstration for 21 years, says she can’t predict whether or not support for the protest will grow this year.

“But the message hasn’t changed,” said Clements, who works with the Native American advocacy group, The Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance. “We can’t settle for anything less than a name and logo change. The logo is racist and the name does not honor Native Americans.”

Team owners, who have largely remained silent in the debate, have said the team has no plans to dump Wahoo, which remains popular with fans.

As they do each year, the demonstrators plan to march at 12:30 p.m. from West 25th Street and Detroit Avenue to Progressive Filed, where they will stay until about 3 p.m.

Other Native American organizations are also participating in opening-day demonstrations against Wahoo, according to Facebook postings and email messages.

Ferne, who is not Native American, said she and others are already looking ahead to 2015, which marks the 100th Anniversary of the team name.