Cleveland American Indian Movement protests outside Indians' home opener

AIM Demonstration
Posted at 1:40 PM, Apr 05, 2021

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland American Indian Movement (AIM) held a demonstration on Opening Day in an ongoing effort to persuade owners of the baseball franchise to cease using its “Indians” moniker near the gate on Monday.

Watch part of the protest in the media player below:

For the last 50 years, the Cleveland American Indian movement has met annually at various baseball stadiums to raise awareness about the team’s name, which the organization says is exploitative and racist.

Native American groups have, for years, demanded the team change its name and encouraged the organization to “eliminate harmful and racist Native American sports mascots, names, and imagery.”

Sundance serves as the executive director for the Cleveland American Indian Movement.

"I don’t see how the chief or the name is honoring us when you look at what reality is for indigenous people in this country," he said.

The organization removed the Chief Wahoo logo in 2019 from on-field use and around Progressive Field.

However, Chief Wahoo is still present inside the Indians team store, with his face on bobbleheads, foam fingers and apparel.

A spokesperson for the Cleveland Indians said they still plan to sell items featuring the Indians name and Chief Wahoo for historical purposes, however, they plan to have the proceeds from that merchandise go toward Native American programs and organizations.

According to a spokesperson, a timetable on when that will occur and which organizations will benefit has not been determined yet.

Last week, the Indians announced they will not allow fans into Progressive Field with “headdresses and face paint styled in a way that references or appropriates American Indian cultures and traditions.”

Cleveland AIM calls on the City of Cleveland to enforce its longtime ordinances, which prohibit bigotry and racial hatred, including:

§ 667.02 Pictures Inciting Race Violence No person, firm, corporation or association of individuals shall knowingly advertise, publish, present or exhibit in any public place in the City, any lithograph, drawing, sign, picture (motion or still), play, drama or sketch that represents any hanging, lynching or drawing of a human being that in any way incites race riot or race hatred. (Ord. No. 1333-64. Passed 5-17-65, eff. 5-20-65)

§ 667.03 Printed Matter Inciting Racial or Religious Hatred No person, firm, corporation or association of individuals shall knowingly print, publish, distribute or cause to be printed, published or distributed by any means, or in any manner whatsoever, any handbill, dodger, circular, booklet, pamphlet, leaflet, card, sticker, periodical literature or paper, that exposes any individual or any racial or religious group to hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy within the meaning of this section. (Ord. No. 1333-64. Passed 5-17-65, eff. 5-20-65)

§ 667.04 Societies to Promote Racial Hatred, Etc. No person shall organize any society which tends to promote racial hatred or religious bigotry. (Ord. No. 63410-A. Passed 9-22-24)

Team owner and chairman Paul Dolan said that after hearing firsthand the stories and experiences of Native American people, the team gained a deep understanding of how tribal communities feel about the team name and the detrimental effects it has on them.

During an interview with WTAM 1100, the Cleveland Indians Chairman & CEO updated fans on the progress of the team’s name change (comment begins at 3:50):

The team said that the decision to change the current name will be a multi-phase process and that future decisions including name identification and brand development will "take time."

For Sundance, he said he's still skeptical the name change will occur.

"Over the course of some years, we’ve heard the team name is going to change more than one time," he said. "So I'll believe it when we see it."

The Cleveland Indians held discussions in the summer of 2020 about the possibility of a name change after years of protests calling the team name and former Chief Wahoo logo “derogatory,” “racist” and “offensive.”

"We would like to be part of that community, but until that change is made, we’re not doing anything but contributing money to those people who continue to exploit us," Sundance added. "We’re going to be out here at every Opening Day until they make the change."

Weighing in on the discussion, Manager Terry Francona agreed, saying he believed the time has come for the team to change its name after more than 100 years.

To learn more from the Cleveland Indians organization about the decision, click here:

This article was written by Kaylyn Hlavaty and Clay LePard for WEWS.