By: Mike Oz
This startling photo from Friday’s Cleveland Indians home opener raised a lot of eyebrows when it started to circulate online. If you could sum up the arguments about sports teams using Native American names/mascots in one photo, this would be it.
Since Friday, we’ve learned more about the photo’s context from the documentarians at ClevelandFrowns.com. The man on the left is Robert Roche, the executive director of the American Indian Education Center in Parma, Ohio and an annual protestor at Cleveland Indians’ opening day. The man on the right is an Indians fan who identified himself only as “Rodriguez.” He, as you can imagine, didn’t find anything wrong with his outfit. Roche, as you can also imagine, found plenty.
Here’s a startling footnote for the photo. It turns out that Lalo Alcaraz, a nationally syndicated cartoonist, predicted this scene almost perfectly 12 years ago. The similarities are uncanny:
The Cleveland Indians aren’t alone in this controversy. The NFL’s Washington Redskins are most entrenched in the fight. Over the years, the Indians have actually minimized the use of their redfaced mascot Chief Wahoo. Some fans still love Wahoo so much they dress up in redface and cheap headdresses like Rodriguez, which is why Native American protestors like Roche continue to say any use of Wahoo is totally inappropriate.
As Alcaraz notes, the similarities between the two images might seem kind of cool, but they’re actually quite disheartening. Looking at both of them makes it pretty clear that things haven’t progressed much in the past 12 years.