Tracking Cleveland Indians' Potential $9B Lawsuit from Native American Group

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2014

Akshai Singh protests against the use of Chief Wahoo by the Cleveland Indians before a baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians, Friday, April 4, 2014, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Even though the Washington Redskins have grabbed all the headlines in the battle over their nickname, the Cleveland Indians are now facing a legal fight over their nickname and logo as well. 

According to a report from CBS Cleveland, a Native American group will file a federal lawsuit against Cleveland's Major League Baseball franchise for the use of its "offensive" Chief Wahoo logo:

Robert Roche, a Chiricahua Apache and director of the American Indian Education Center, is planning to file a federal lawsuit in late July against the Cleveland Indians organization. Roche, who is also the leader of the group People Not Mascots, says the lawsuit will challenge that the team’s name and Chief Wahoo logo are racist.

Many will point to the political incorrectness of the logo, which is essentially a caricature of a Native American with a huge smile on its face.   

In recent years, the Cleveland franchise has been using a block C logo to diminish the presence of the Chief Wahoo logo. Paul Lukas of noted on Twitter in January that the block letter was going to be their primary logo, but that Chief Wahoo would still be present:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office recently decided to strip the NFL's Washington franchise of its Redskins trademarks "because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered." According to the CBS report, the People Not Mascots group hope "to apply similar action" against Cleveland's MLB franchise.

Washington plans to appeal the patent office's decision. The franchise succeeded in having a similar ruling from 1999 overturned a decade ago.

Roche told Paul Kiska of NewsNet ABC Channel 5 in Cleveland that the $9 billion lawsuit was settled upon for the way the franchise has profited from the exploitation of Native Americans. 

"We're going to be asking for $9 billion and we're basing it on a hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation and profiteering," Roche said.

It remains to be seen how the Washington decision will impact what ultimately happens with Cleveland and Chief Wahoo.

However, the initial ruling to cancel the Redskins trademarks may give some hope to Roche and Native Americans that they can change Cleveland's nickname and logo.


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