Iconography

Chief Wahoo- 1946

Chief Wahoo- present day

For my icon, I chose to take the logo of one of the most recognizable professional sports teams in American culture, the Cleveland Indians. Originated in 1900, the Common nicknames for the Indians include the “Tribe” and the “Wahoos,” the latter being a reference to their logo, Chief Wahoo. The Indian logo, which was introduced in the late 1940’s, has been one of the most recognizable logos in sports, and a topic of high debate.

Since the 1960’s, there has been a push among American citizens, mainly Native American activist groups, to eliminate the use of Native American symbols as mascots for sports teams both at the amateur and professional levels. Some individuals who support the use of Native American mascots state that they are meant to be respectful, and to pay homage to Native American people. Many have made the argument that Native American mascots focus on bravery, courage and fighting skills rather than anything derogatory. Regardless, the controversy still rages today.

Outside of the United States, the logo is used to promote the team in international markets. In the past ten years the act of acquiring foreign players from Japan has become common practice. This is done for two main reasons. Not only does the addition of Japanese players maker the team in the United States better, it creates a larger market in order to sell merchandise. A player of high caliber from Japan attracts a lot of media attention in his home country, and you can bet that the team’s logo is plastered on everything.

There has not been harsh criticism coming from the country of Japan due to the fact that they are unfamiliar with Native American customs, traditions and history. However, most of the backlash has come from the same activist groups in America that insist that the team is portraying Native Americans in a negative light, and only continue to encourage discrimination.

Most recently, after a number of lawsuits concerning name change were won by Native American groups, The University of North Dakota for example, Cleveland felt the pressure to create a new logo that could be associated with the team. Cleveland has since redesigned their baseball caps to portray the letter “C.” However, the use of Chief Wahoo is still prominent within the organization today.

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