The Pro-Chief Wahoo Rally Was a Couple of Dudes Standing Around for a Minute

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click to enlarge This is not the "Rally to Save Chief Wahoo." - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
This is not the "Rally to Save Chief Wahoo."
We're pretty sure we saw the "Rally to Save Chief Wahoo" organizer exiting the plaza between Progressive Field and the Quicken Loans Arena at about 2:20 p.m. Friday. He was accompanied by one other guy, and as far as we could tell, that was the total attendance for the Pro-Wahoo counter-demonstration, which was hardly a demonstration, and in any case proved totally superfluous, given the unabated multitude of Chief Wahoos grinning from the caps and coats and blankets of Cleveland's raucous home-opener crowd. 

"Save Chief Wahoo?" One might have been stirred to inquire, had the rally evolved into anything other than a couple of dudes standing in the cold with their hands in their pockets for, like, 20 minutes. "From what?"

Well, from the scourge of political correctness, no duh, and the tide-pod-eating snowflake SJWs who are offended by everything — WHEN WILL IT STAAAHHHP! — and who have successfully infiltrated-slash-poisoned the mind-slash-heart of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, the guy who pressured the Indians' ownership into severing ties with Chief Wahoo once and for all.

"Rob Manfred sucks," observed a visitor to the "Rally to Save Chief Wahoo" Facebook page, Friday.

This was in keeping with the rhetoric excreting from most of the event page's visitors, who ducked their heads in to sing the praises of their beloved racist symbol and/or to trash Scene Magazine, the liberal rag that has "fallen in line with the race hucksters who wish to promote racism where it doesn't exist for their own political and financial gain."

Very few, however, bothered to show up to the actual rally. Those who did (per the confusion on the event page) couldn't find it, because, recall, it was just a couple of dudes standing around for a few minutes. There were no signs, for example. There were no chants. One attendee asked, "Where is the rally?" Another said, "I'm here Joe." [Addressing the kilted organizer Joe Costello, who had recently left]. "I am looking for you all and not finding you. Is it by the CLE?" Asked one woman.

(This appeared to be the event's total correspondence.)

An anti-Wahoo demonstration — a version of the very same one that has been greeting fans on opening day since 1971 — was staged concurrently at the right field gate. To hear the fans shouting as they marched by ("You won!" "Go home!") some might have thought for a moment that the anti-Wahoo crowd had actually scored a great victory with the announcement that the Chief Wahoo logo will be completely removed from Indians' uniforms and signage in 2019.

To be sure, Wahoo's demise is a significant step forward for those who regard the redfaced caricature as a grotesque racist symbol, a black eye for the City of Cleveland, and an enduring harm to Native American communities, particularly native children.

But having acknowledged that Wahoo shouldn't be associated with Major League Baseball, as the Indians and the MLB have, it sure has been shocking to see the logo on the Indians caps and sleeves on the field this year, not to mention absolutely everywhere on team merchandise both old and brand-new.

Hence the anti-Wahoo protesters amended message, this year: "Less Wahoo? NO WAHOO." In pre-demonstration comments, the anti-Wahoo spokespeople called for not only the elimination of the Chief Wahoo logo, but for a full rebrand of the franchise. They argued that the logo's persistence on team merchandise will continue to have a negative effect on Native self-esteem.

click to enlarge The Pro-Chief Wahoo Rally Was a Couple of Dudes Standing Around for a Minute (5)
Sam Allard / Scene
click to enlarge The Pro-Chief Wahoo Rally Was a Couple of Dudes Standing Around for a Minute (4)
Sam Allard / Scene
The strangest thing about the home opener, in fact, was just how similar the pre-game protest proceedings were to previous years. The interactions seemed less frequent and more subdued at first (from maybe 1:00 to 2:45 p.m.) but soon, the familiar chants and insults could be heard: the same false equivalence with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame; the same offensive approximations of tribal war whoops; the same mindless shouting of "Wahoo!" and "Fuck You!" and "Wahoo!" again; the same distraught shaking of heads, the same momentous pauses, the same stern paternal gazes, the same internal turmoil evident in men of a certain age and mien as they elected to engage or not to engage, generally with a wave of the hand(s) and the muttering of something like "who cares" or "just pathetic" or, in one case yesterday, "I was gonna say something, but I didn't!" 

click to enlarge The Pro-Chief Wahoo Rally Was a Couple of Dudes Standing Around for a Minute (6)
Sam Allard / Scene
Among the younger set — your prototypical bros — direct engagement was preferred. When the ungainly ticket lines stalled along E. 9th Street during the 3 o'clock hour, a quartet of Wahoo partisans rustled up a "Keep the Chief" chant, which died down after a handful of spirited refrains. The long lines gave passersby an extended look at the protesters' signs, and afforded ample opportunity for callous photo ops (as in the iPhone pic to your immediate right). The shallowness of the pro-Wahoo position asserted itself with what ought to have been embarrassing clarity during these moments as well.

"Keep the Chief!" Someone would shout.

"Why?" One of the protesters would occasionally respond.

Good question! Earlier on, folks could sling insults at the protesters as they walked by, avoiding anything resembling conversation in the aftermath. But stuck as they were in the ticket lines, the pro-Wahoo folks were confronted with the prospect of answering a question for which they obviously weren't prepared. As always, they had numbers and decibels on their side. And the response, really the only response short of invective, was to restate the position: "Keep the Chief!" "We love Wahoo!" "You can't take him away from me!" etc.

In other words, the "pro-Wahoo position" such as it is, was not defended. It was never justified in terms other than personal zealotry. (And if conscientious Wahoo supporters thought about it sincerely for a moment, they might recognize that Wahoo can only be justified in those terms: fondness, devotion, "long-standing attachment," etc.) It's not at all surprising, given these parameters, that at yesterday's home opener, there was no "civil dialogue," only noise.

Joe Costello admitted, in a Facebook post Saturday morning, that the "Rally to Save Chief Wahoo" did not live up to expectations.

There's no denying it. Yesterday was a flop attendance wise. We had tons of people come up to us and express their support, but as soon as the gates opened everyone standing with us filed in (and rightfully so!). Maybe it was because most fans didn't arrive until very close to opening pitch, probably to stay out of the cold. Maybe people just weren't interested in a rally. Maybe Nick and I could have definitely done a better job with organizing. Truth is, after the initial announcement and subsequent influx of interest to this group, everything quieted down and we were left wondering if this would even happen.

Once the media picked it up, things sprang back to life and we decided to run with it. We knew attendance had the potential to be light, I think I even said that on the radio. But this whole thing still gave us a few great media platforms (local news, Rover's nationally syndicated talk show, and NPR) to articulately and respectfully share our message...something which (correct me if I'm wrong) to this point had not been an opportunity afforded to the pro-Chief movement. Even though yesterday didn't pan out the way we had hoped, the Save the Chief sentiment is still strong in Cleveland.
Joe Costello seems like a nice guy. But to suggest that the "pro-Chief" movement has not been given a platform to share its message — See here, here and even here — is even more audacious than expecting a healthy in-real-life turnout from the ranks of vile racists who have gleefully mocked and belittled Wahoo opponents online for years.

Standing up for something is hard. Holding a sign for several hours while being pummeled by violent language and violent wind is not fun at all. And it's worth remembering that one of the most popular Pro-Wahoo arguments against the opening day protests was that they should be rendered illegitimate because of their small size. (There's no time to go into why this strikes me as a particularly cruel and ugly argument, but it's an argument that nevertheless has been made over and over and over.)

And while I don't agree with it, it's another argument that has backfired among the pro-Wahoo movement's hardest core. Those who lectured Wahoo opponents that they should find something better to protest because Chief Wahoo was "just a cartoon" now have no logical leg to stand on as they mourn the logo's discontinuation. (Natural response: Why are you so upset? Isn't it just a cartoon?) And now, those who sought to delegitimize the protesters for assembling only puny numbers year after year must reckon with their own organizational ineptitude and ideological impotence.

There's no denying it. It was a flop.  

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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