Year after year, every Cleveland Indians postseason appearance is predictably met with a few individuals who feel it is appropriate to show up to a game at Progressive Field wearing red face paint. These individuals are always shown prominently during the TV broadcast, and many of us with any sensibility squirm in our seats. The next morning’s sports shows inevitably re-litigate the appropriateness of the logo and nickname, and Cleveland fans are left trying to justify their team’s marketing strategy to friends and family, rather than basking in our team’s success.
I was optimistic after Game 1 and 2 of the ALDS in Cleveland, where it looked like the usual suspects had traded in their red face paint for white face paint in the design of a baseball. Sadly, I was at ALCS Game 2 in Cleveland, and was horrified to see multiple fans donning headdresses and wearing red face paint again. One particular individual wearing a headdress, walking up the aisle to his seat, thought it would be appropriate to put his hand to his mouth to make what he likely interpreted to be an “Indian war call”. The Jays fans next to me sat with their mouth agape as multiple fans joined the man in his mockery.
I understand the dilemma the team faces. Every time the topic of phasing out Chief Wahoo comes up, a large segment of the fan base threatens to “boycott” the team. And for a team that struggles at the turnstiles like the Indians, they have to be sensitive to any public relations issues with any fans.
But with the World Series returning to Cleveland next week for Game 6 and 7, I hope that the Indians game operations team can take a simple first step towards decency. If fans are seen at the entrance wearing any costume including red face paint, or a headdress, they can easily ensure that those materials aren’t allowed into the stadium. Is that somewhat hypocritical given that Wahoo’s face will still be everywhere? Sure, but baby steps.
Am I being too politically correct? Maybe. But I want the focus of the sports world to be on this terrific baseball team, not its logo, and I want to be able to enjoy our first championship since 1948 without spending every conversation discussing the nickname and logo. Let’s not bring any more negative attention to what should be the best week of our baseball lives.