On Monday, the Cleveland Indians announced that in 2019 they will be removing their controversial mascot Chief Wahoo from their uniforms after 71 years of use.
This choice is a long time coming, and the Indians should be commended for this decision, although it is not as comprehensive as it could be since the mascot will remain on other merchandise.
However, not everyone feels the same about this issue.
Arguments on one side say that the classical cartoon depiction of Chief Wahoo is a racist symbol against Native American people.
On the other side, Chief Wahoo is a beloved emblem, a symbol of the history of a team and not intended to be racist but rather a fun part of the game of baseball.
People are very divided on this issue, even breaking down family lines. The same is true for my family.
Growing up in suburban Ohio, my family has always been huge fan of Major League Baseball. As die-hard Indians fans, we spend every season listening to the games and attending as many as possible.
When I was younger, we even had a wooden cut out of Chief Wahoo throwing a baseball that we put up in our yard throughout the year.
I never thought anything about the mascot of my favorite team, or “Chief Yahoo,” as I used to refer to him. I was a child, and, to me, it was just a funny character that went along with baseball.
However, I was five, and had all the naiveite of that age.
I agree that, personally, I still attribute that old wooden cut out with a great many summers spent at the fields with my family.
However, now I see as an adult the broader social and political scale Major League Baseball plays in this country. We do not play baseball in a social bubble.
While it may be nice to remember Chief Wahoo as a fun mascot, and a symbol of earlier years, that is simply not what it means in the wider context of this country.
No one can argue that a big-toothed, red-faced “Indian” mascot is not racist in and of itself. Even having a Native American as a mascot, a slot almost exclusively held by animals and inanimate objects, is racially insensitive at best.
The truth is that if you believe that Chief Wahoo is not a symbol of race, then you are attempting to live in a cultural bubble.
But even if you don’t believe me about this, and still firmly hold that Chief Wahoo is not racist, there is still no reason to argue against the removal of the mascot.
The understanding that this issue directly impacts a section of the population from being able to fully enjoy and immerse themselves in the game of baseball is enough of a reason to change it.
Baseball will always be baseball. I will always have the sport I have loved from childhood. We all will.
So why would we not do everything that we can to make sure baseball is as inclusive as it can be?
I am happy that the Indians put their fans before everything else and made this choice. Today, I’m a proud Tribe fan.