Editorial: Don’t be yahoos, Cleveland. Say so long to Chief Wahoo

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In this April 10, 2015, photo, Philip Yenyo, left, executive director of the American Indians Movement for Ohio, talks with a Cleveland Indians fan before a baseball game in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

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Across Chicago, Cubs fans are asking: “Whoa, who’s this Chief Wahoo character?”

White Sox fans know all about Chief Wahoo, the red-faced caricature of a Native American that adorns the uniforms of the Cleveland Indians. The Sox and Indians play each other all the time, both teams being in the American League. But for fans of the National League Cubs, Chief Wahoo — arguably the most racially offensive logo in professional sports — was more like a rumor, something that could be ignored.

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Not anymore. It was impossible to watch the first two World Series games in Cleveland without seeing toothy Chief Wahoo everywhere. Especially since the Cleveland Indians have brought the logo back big-time for the playoffs after downplaying it with an air of embarrassment — just a “C” on their caps and jerseys — during the regular season.

Too bad for that. Cleveland is a nice town. We’ve got a soft spot for rust-belt cities on the Great Lakes fighting for continued relevancy. But a lot of us in Chicago this week had trouble explaining to our kids while watching the World Series how a big league ball club could hang on to a logo that is so patently derogatory. American Indians in Cleveland have been protesting Chief Yahoo at every Opening Day game since — get this — 1970. They protested this week, too.

This business of Indian-themed logos and names gets tricky. Obviously, they are not all equally objectionable, and views will differ. Is the team name Indians itself offensive? How about Redskins? That one, we believe — as we’ve written before — clearly is. And what about the Blackhawks? The debate goes on.

As for Chief Wahoo, give us a break. Or, rather, give Native Americans a break. Chief Wahoo dehumanizes Native Americans in the same way black-faced minstrels dehumanized African Americans.

C’mon, Cleveland, you’re better than that.

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