Outspoken sports analyst Bomani Jones made a controversial political statement about the Cleveland Indians and its mascot crisis on Mike & Mike, a program on ESPN. Currently, Chief Wahoo, a grinning red cartoon Native American with a feather in its headband, represents the baseball club, and the organization has been criticized for being ethnically and culturally insensitive. Jones wore a shirt with the same font and logo as the Cleveland Indians’ trademark design, but rather it read “Caucasians” and the mascot has a white complexion with a dollar sign as a feather.
Some people say it’s wrong to subjugate an entire ethnicity to a being a mascot (an animal-dominant sphere), whereas others argue that it is ingrained as part of the team’s history and culture. What Jones is saying, however, is that if people find the message on his satirical shirt to be offensive, then they should have a problem with the actual logo itself, for the same concept is at play, just with a different race.
Teams with questionable mascots, like the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Redskins, are indicative of the stereotypes that people have held about these groups in the past. Washington’s mascot, the Redskins, especially should be altered because the word in itself is a derogatory slur.
Jones also believes that, as long as there is a stirring of controversy for the organization, it garners both attention and cash flow, referencing the subtle dollar sign in place of the feather. With this in mind, the owners might have an ulterior motive to not change the logo. He defends himself by saying that he is lightheartedly bringing light to the issue.
This issue applies to the University of California, Santa Barbara as well since our mascot is the Gaucho, an Argentinian cowboy. Certain people may deem this as offensive. Simply put, it just is not the right place to involve race. A school’s mascot should be a holistic representation of the school’s identity; the fact that it usually takes form as an animal is really off-putting. Any resemblance of race or ethnicity should be discarded because it is an outdated and antiquated tradition that is both racist and offensive.
Proponents for keeping the name try to honor the past and the tradition that is associated with the mascot’s culture. They believe that there are roots deeply planted with the name. However, the experience of being at UCSB does not change even if its mascot does. Only when there is a swap of location (just ask the Seattle Supersonics or the Montreal Expos) is there a radical change that alters the face of the franchise, as their identities have totally changed. But a simple change in the mascot will not tarnish any of the accumulated traditions or storied records.
People must adapt to changing times because everything is rapidly evolving, especially ideals and ways of thinking. Nowadays, people are becoming more racially and ethnically aware, so something as glaring as this will definitely raise red flags, as there is a noticeable uptick in media sensitivity. If this logo has received flak on numerous occasions by a large community of people, then it is time to switch it up into something less offensive, no matter the cultural and historical significance behind it. As a matter of fact, if their representation of history was accurate, the ball club would be dubbed the “Cleveland Native Americans.”
At the end of the day, it is just a label for sports fans to acknowledge their teams by. There might be history and tradition that comes with this name, but that’s just what it is: history.