The Cleveland Indians, that is.
Ed Rice of Orono, Maine, wrote “Baseball’s First Indian, Louis Sockalexis” in 2003 and “Native Trailblazer, Andrew Sockalexis” in 2008 and he’s long championed a change in team nicknames and mascots – starting with the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo.
The name, he writes in this column for the Bangor (Maine) Daily News, supposedly “honors” Louis Sockalexis, who was Penobscot from Maine, who is generally considered the first Native American to have played Major League baseball, in 1897.
As he writes:
…Why do they make players of color wear a symbol they would never consider wearing if it represented a person of their own race? Why do they make any player with a conscience wear something he can’t possibly be comfortable about appearing in public wearing? My own personal “Field of Dreams” moment for the Cleveland franchise would be the arrival of a player with conscience who refuses to wear that symbol on his uniform — whether he’s a Native American player, like Jacoby Ellsbury, Joba Chamberlain or Kyle Lohse, or just a player with integrity.”
The Penobscot Tribe has, in a resolution, asked the team to stop using the Chief Wahoo caricature. That was years ago and the franchise has yet to acknowledge that resolution.
Rices urges Maine to set an example for Cleveland by abolishing offensive team nicknames and mascots within the state.
Native American storyteller and University of Maine Native American Studies program direction John Bear Mitchell once noted to me that I should not focus so much of my energy on national targets — like Sports Illustrated magazine, the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Indians — and work to make our state more aware and more proactive on these matters. “It starts from the center of the circle, Ed, not outside it,” he explained.
In the meantime, he urges people to call the Cleveland Indians and demand that they respond to the Penobscot resolution. He supplies the number and we’re happy to reprint it: 216-420-4200.
As Rice says, don’t stop calling until the team responds!