Stereotypes and Sports: Chief Wahoo to be Eliminated

Names and brands represent a significant investment for all organizations, no matter if they are corporations, private organizations, higher education, or athletics. Brands and logos are often loved and worn proudly by consumers. However, just as often a logo can be seen as offensive to individuals and groups.

Case in point: The Cleveland Indians recently announced that it will stop using the Chief Wahoo logo beginning in 2019. Major League Baseball’s position is that the logo is no longer appropriate. Some team supporters view the logo as traditional (Chief Wahoo has been used since 1948), while opposition characterizes the name as offensive to Native Americans.

Cleveland is not the only athletic team that has been criticized for its logo. A few years ago the University of North Dakota officially dropped its Fighting Sioux nickname in favor of the Fighting Hawks. However, other teams, such as the Washington Redskins and the Atlanta Braves (with the “Tomahawk chop” motion), have resisted pressure to change.

Some team supporters view the logo as traditional (Chief Wahoo has been used since 1948), while opposition characterizes the name as offensive to Native Americans. Regardless, logos have the power to motivate consumers, or to repel them.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Show a video about the issue faced by the Cleveland Indians: https://nyti.ms/2Guw0H2
  2. What are the essential elements of this issue?
  3. What have been the experiences of other athletic teams in similar situations?
  4. Have students research the number of athletic teams with nicknames that could be detrimental to a race or ethnical group.
  5. What is the impact of a new logo on sales of apparel?
  6. How important is brand to athletic teams?

Source: Waldstein, D. (29, January, 2018). Cleveland Indians will abandon Chief Wahoo logo next year. New York Times.

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