National Coalition on Racism in Sports & Media
AIM Ministry for Information
PO Box 13521
Minneapolis MN 55414
612-721-3914 - fax 612-721-7826
Web Address:

P R E S S   S T A T E M E N T   -   F O R   I M M E D I A T E   R E L E A S E

October 27, 1999

Wahoo - Chant - Chop, ...
Bad Medicine for Cleveland & Atlanta Baseball?

Real Native Americans cheered for the Boston Red Sox over the Cleveland "Indians" and now we find ourselves having to cheer for the New York Yankees to beat the Atlanta "Braves."

What do these two baseball teams have in common? Besides being two of the greatest baseball teams to come along, they have both turned their team names and logos, chants & chops into a curse.

Cleveland owner, Richard Jacobs should have fired Wahoo instead of Manager Mike Hargrove.

Cleveland, at the end of the regular season was twenty two (22) games out front. After winning two (2) straight, lost three (3) in a row to Boston to lose the playoffs. Atlanta squeaked by in the New York Mets loss on a bases-loaded walk-in run. Both teams have either been in the playoffs, the race for the pennant, or the world series nine (9) years in a row. Atlanta and the tomahawk choppers lose the 1999 World Series in four straight. Thank you Yankees. Always a contender, but never a champ.

Native American plaintiffs prevailed in their arguments before a three (3) judge federal panel of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that the term Redskins, and six (6) other trademarks of the Washington football franchise were offensive, pejorative, and scandalous. In a landmark case, all seven trademarks were cancelled. Similar challenges are being prepared against other professional and amateur sports teams.

Under the 1974 Civil Rights Act, Pubic Accommodations Section, lawsuits are being prepared for filing against the Cleveland baseball franchise, the University of Illinois, and Florida State University. Arguing that the demeaning and degrading depiction of Native American spiritual, cultural and intellectual property rights creates a hostile environment for Native American sports fans, and students from attending and enjoying such public or private facilities that clearly discriminates against Native Americans.

More than a dozen universities and colleges have changed their names with positive outcomes. In Minnesota, Concerned Indian Parents whose children were being victimized by the demeaning and degrading depiction of their culture called for the end of the use of "Indian mascots." Thirty (30) years ago, there were more than sixty-five schools that used Indian symbols in sports. Today, due to the hard work by the Concern Indian Parents in cooperation with the Minnesota State Board of Education, faculty, and students, there are less than nine (9) remaining who have retained the use of "Indian mascots."

In others states, communities have finally got it. At this moment hundreds are changing. Salmon Idaho's high school team call themselves "The Salmon Savages." They have met with officials of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, and they are providing moral leadership on this issue by agreeing to change. Leadership that Time Warner, the new owners of the Atlanta Baseball Franchise, and the owners of Major League Baseball, the National Football League, hockey, and the boards of regents of several universities and colleges, should be providing. Salmon High School is a small school with a big spirit, and NCRSM officials are working with the Salmon community to raise funds for uniforms and other transitional needs.

The Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, who manage investments and stock portfolios in excess of 100 billion dollars are meeting with many major corporate executives on this issue, including Stan Kasten, President of the Atlanta Baseball Franchise, other high level executives of Time Warner and other networks.

It's time for both teams to change their names, drop the Wahoo and tomahawk logos, the chant & the chop. In doing so they can cleanse the last vestiges of a condition of institutionalized racism that permeates the very fabric of America's favorite past-time, baseball. In doing so, both can come out of their dugouts in Millenium 2000 with new names, logos, uniforms, sports paraphernalia, and a new winning spirit.

Vernon Bellecourt
President, National Coalition on Racism in Sports & Media

National Representative, American Indian Movement
Grand Governing Council

For more information call NCRSM's offices in
Minneapolis at (612) 359-0200,
or email to
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