By John Dodge
CHICAGO (CBS) — Let’s play a game.
If you were to take a poll and ask baseball fans to name the most iconic Major League Baseball team, most would probably answer …
The New York Jews.
If you were to ask the same people to name the baseball team that left New York City for San Francisco in the late 1950s, most would answer …
The San Francisco Chinamen.
If you were ask the same people to name the baseball team that has made their home in a working-class town along Lake Erie, most would answer …
The Cleveland Indians.
That was essentially the message behind a provocative ad campaign, making the point rather bluntly why Native Americans are offended by the Cleveland franchise name, along with the wildly smiling, animated Chief Wahoo logo.
The poster was created as part of an ad campaign for National Congress Of American Indians.
The year was 2001.
About 13 years later, that image has re-emerged as the debate over the Indians name continues endlessly.
“Since 1963, no professional teams have established new mascots that use racial stereotypes in their names and imagery. In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) established an extensive policy to remove harmful “Indian” mascots. Hundreds of tribal nations, national tribal organizations, civil rights organizations, school boards, sports teams, and individuals have called for the end to harmful “Indian” mascots,” the NCAI said in 2013.
Yet, there have been a few notable holdouts.
But what if the Cleveland name and mascot were based on a stereotypical white guy?
Recently, publicity has surrounded a line of shirts with the label “Cleveland Caucasians” from Shelf Life Clothing.
The cartoonish “Chief Wahoo” image includes a dollar sign in place of the Indian feathers.
There are similar shirts for the Washington Caucasians of the National Football League.
The bosses from both sports teams continue to defend their names and logos, citing fan support and tradition.
There have been reports over the years that Cleveland has been quietly phasing out the logo’s presence.
The team denies that.
Some media outlets won’t use the names or logos within their publications or on their websites.
The Washington Redskins’ name has been deemed offensive by the US Patent Office, its trademark protection removed for that reason. The Score’s Dan Bernstein wrote eloquently about the issue here.
In Illinois, the fight over a mascot was settled with the retirement of Chief Illiniwek, at the University Of Illinois.
That was an emotional and dramatic tug of war over tradition and sensitivities about racial and ethnic stereotypes. Still, on occasion, the Chief makes unsanctioned (by the university) appearances.
Regardless what you think of the debate, or if there should even be a debate at all, one has to wonder if anybody would be comfortable with the New York Jews.