Cleveland Indians Logo Under Attack
Published 30 June 2014
By: Joseph M. Hanna
The Native American advocacy group, “People Not Mascots,” is threatening the Cleveland Indians with a lawsuit for $9 billion in damages. The group claims that the Cleveland Indians’ logo, Chief Wahoo, is offensive and racist.
According to the group’s leader, Robert Roche, a Chiricahua Apache, the substantial amount of damages is based “on a hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation, and profiteering.” Roche further stated the logo has “been offensive since day one. We are not mascots. My children are not mascots. We are people.”
While the Cleveland Indians have been slowly phasing the logo out of use, replacing it with a letter “C” logo, local supporters and many fans disagree with the allegations of racism. Bob Rosen, president of the Cleveland Indians fan organization, The Wahoo Club, believes “Chief Wahoo is smiling; he’s happy. I don’t look at it as degrading – it’s a symbol of a positive thing.”
This new lawsuit, looking to be filed in late July, comes shortly after the US Patent and Trademark Office ruled the name “Redskins” to be a racial slur, removing its trademark from the Washington football team. The decision could have some influence in the resolution of this new challenge to the Indians’ logo.
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Joseph Hanna is a partner of Goldberg Segalla and concentrates his practice in commercial litigation with a focus on sports and entertainment law and retail, hospitality, and development litigation. Joe represents sports franchises, professional athletes, and movie studios with various issues related to licensing, contracts, and day-to-day management. He serves as Chair of Goldberg Segalla’s Sports and Entertainment Law Practice Group and editor of the firm’s Sports and Entertainment Law Insider blog. In addition, Joe is the Chair of Goldberg Segalla's Diversity Task Force. He possesses an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell.