Wahoo protesters want to be in on Indians' talks with MLB

Austin Howell, 15, adjusts his headdress before a baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians, Tuesday, April 11, 2017, during opening day in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND — Organizers protesting the Cleveland Indians' use of the Chief Wahoo logo have asked to be involved in talks with Major League Baseball about changes to the contentious symbol.

A group asking the Indians to abolish the red-faced, smiling logo and their nickname gathered outside Progressive Field on Tuesday before the club's home opener against the Chicago White Sox. Carrying signs that read "Racism Honors No One" and "Real People Not Mascots," the protesters peacefully voiced their opinions as police looked on.

The movement to replace the Wahoo logo has gained momentum in recent years. The Indians have reduced its usage, but the logo, which has been part of the team's history for more than 60 years, still appears on some of Cleveland's game caps and jerseys.

The Indians have had talks with MLB about further changes. Commissioner Rob Manfred said during the World Series that he knows "that that particular logo is offensive to some people, and all of us at Major League Baseball understand why."

Philip Yenyo, executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio, said he has been encouraged by the Indians' openness to address the issue, but he wants more. Yenyo and his group have opposed the team using the logo for profit.

He said he has reached out to baseball officials about being involved in any future discussions but has not heard back.

"It's time that we as brothers sit down at the table and talk," he said.

Manfred spoke with Indians owner Paul Dolan when he visited Cleveland earlier this year, and there are plans for more talks.

"Major League Baseball is aware of and has spoken to a number of groups with concerns regarding Chief Wahoo," the league said in a statement. "We are currently in the midst of private discussions with the Cleveland Indians regarding the issue."

Yenyo has been encouraged by the Indians' willingness to address the matter.

"There are Little League teams that are changing their names, high school teams that are changing their names," Yenyo said. "A couple colleges have done it. To see that happening is great, but I think the momentum would be a lot better if major league teams would change their names and they can do it. I don't think they see that if they change the name, people will be rushing to get what's in their stores before it's gone. And then you would have a new market with a new logo and that's going to bring in more money, so I don't think they are seeing the bigger picture."

There were a few pro-Wahoo supporters who yelled toward the protesters on their way into the game.

As she stood on the sidewalk, Carla Getz, who made the trip from Benton Harbor, Michigan, to take part in the protest, waved at passing cars who honked in support.

For Getz, a Native American from the Potawatomi Tribe, the removal of Chief Wahoo is long overdue.

"We are people, not mascots, not logos, not imagery," she said. "Chief Wahoo does not represent anybody that I know or anybody in my tribe or in my family. That is someone's interpretation of what we are, and all that does is diminish us in the eyes of the public. Here we are in 2017, we're not logos. And we've got people telling us, 'but you are.'"

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