November 14, 2016

Howard Bryant: "The Mascot Must Go"

Howard Bryant, ESPN:
[B]aseball apparently needs to be told right from wrong, as a kindergartner would be about calling people names. One ubiquitous image ran throughout the [World] Series, and it wasn't the video feed from some North Side tavern of delirious Cubs fans sloshing beer on one another after the eventual winners scored yet another run. It was the red face of Chief Wahoo emblazoned on the sleeves of the Indians' uniforms and on the front of their baseball caps, the caricature of big teeth and the untrustworthy smile preceding deception.

[Commissioner Rob] Manfred has said, completely unconvincingly, that there is no place for racism in the game of baseball. He is wrong, of course. There is a place for it in baseball, and that place is on the jerseys and caps of Cleveland's baseball club, the blankets, T-shirts and foam fingers it sells, along with virtually everything for sale in the team gift shop. Before Game 2, sitting next to Aaron and Ortiz, Manfred did the worst thing a white man in his position could do: He attempted to turn an obvious issue of simple decency into one of the great, complex and wrenching issues of our time. He said he and Indians owner Paul Dolan would "revisit the issue" of Chief Wahoo, as if an image borne from one of the most racist periods in American history required further review, discussion, caucus or, worse, some form of canvassing of an indigenous tribe to ask if it's offended by the use of the logo, as if the commissioner of a multibillion-dollar industry has no common sense of his own. ...

Manfred took the question of Chief Wahoo with a head shake and a flash of temper, as if he were the one being inconvenienced by baseball's willful racism. There is a difference between difficult and complicated, and the issue of Native Americans as caricatures for sports teams might be difficult because the white men in charge have no interest in the courage it would take to retire top-selling images or confront the appearance of succumbing to public pressure, of being told what to do and to alienate the overwhelmingly white season-ticket base. But it is not complicated. ... The mascot must go.


laura k said...

Great stuff! Yay Howard Bryant.

laura k said...

Also from that column: The game hauls in nearly $10 billion in annual revenue, and yet in the postseason, baseball made its fans work extra to simply find its product, as the games rotated from MLB Network to ESPN to TBS to FOX to FS1. The money spends well enough, and this short-term complete surrender to television has made owners rich, but the game cannot say its product is not damaged when it is not available in bars and hotels and homes across America because the biggest major league games are being broadcast on, at least for baseball, minor league stations.