David Adams, who appeared in “WaWHO?,” said white American culture cannot comprehend the idea that Native Americans would be degraded by images like the red-skinned caricature.
“Many (fans) will tell you that they are honoring American Indians every time they put on their hat,” Adams said. “They simply don’t get it.”
On an Internet message board, in response to a May 7, 2006 Associated Press article about a Cleveland Girl Scout troop advocating for the elimination of Chief Wahoo, some respondents seemed to confirm Adams’ charges. One respondent sarcastically called for the elimination of “The Simpsons”‘ Homer Simpson, because the character, the person said, pokes fun at white, working-class males.
The documentary also showed baseball fans dancing and yelling outside Jacobs Field, the Cleveland Indians’ stadium, seemingly mocking Native Americans. Many American Indian advocates in the film said this would not be accepted if another minority group were the target of such ridicule.
Russell Means, an American Indian activist featured in the documentary, said he and others, including Meisner, sued the Cleveland Indians in 1972. The lawsuit, which called for the renaming of the club and elimination of Chief Wahoo as mascot, was settled out of court.
Means said that as a result of his part in the suit, Cleveland Indians fans sent him hate mail, some calling for the “ethnic cleansing” of American Indians.
The activist said he could not understand how a game could generate so much hate. “I’ve never attacked his home,” Means said. “We (simply) long to be treated as human beings.”
Atkins said people are often too passionate about sports. “Sports fans identify so strongly with teams that it’s like you’re attacking them personally” when advocates ask for names and mascots to be changed, he said.
In the end, Atkins and most of the people in the documentary said money is the ultimate factor in officials not eliminating the Cleveland Indians’ name and mascot. One source in the documentary estimated that the club makes over $20 million a year from the Chief Wahoo symbol.
At the risk of regurgitating a joke no one liked very much the last time I told it, if money is the primary consideration, surely Cleveland’s baseball club could incorporate the likeness of another beloved local icon for a new, less offensive mascot?