Is offense the chief concern?

Starting with the 2019 baseball season, the Cleveland Indians will get rid of their logo, named Chief Wahoo. They did it because critics considered it culturally offensive.

But what of those critics? I have no problem with the team deciding to change the logo, for whatever their reasons. It’s their team to do with as they wish, and if they decide to change based on being sensitive to pressure from outside, that’s fine. But I just wonder about whether those outside critics are representative of those they supposedly represent.

Mentioned links:

Christian Daily Reporter

Cleveland Indians will abandon Chief Wahoo logo next year

Poll: Native Americans’ attitudes toward the Washington Redskins team name

I’m dropping my protest of Washington’s football team name

‘Redskins’ question in 2004 Annenberg study cited anew in controversy

Episode 143: UK NHS SOS, and the Washington Redskins (Non-)Controversy [Consider This podcast]

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Show transcript

Starting with the 2019 baseball season, the Cleveland Indians will get rid of their logo, named Chief Wahoo. They did it because critics considered it culturally offensive.

But what of those critics? I have no problem with the team deciding to change the logo, for whatever their reasons. It’s their team to do with as they wish, and if they decide to change based on being sensitive to pressure from outside, that’s fine. But I just wonder about whether those outside critics are representative of those they supposedly represent.

I want to go back to a topic I covered here before; the name and logo of the Washington Redskins football team. In episode 143 from June of 2016, I talked about a Washington Post poll of Native Americans from all 50 states and DC. The link to that episode is in the show notes for this episode if you want to revisit it. When asked if they were offended by that name, 90% said no (and 1% said they had no opinion, which sounds like “not offended” to me). Further, a poll in 2004 by the Annenberg Public Policy Center got the same numbers. The results were so startling to Robert McCartney, the senior regional correspondent and associate editor at The Washington Post, that he dropped his protest of the name and logo, even if he privately disliked it. He said this in a companion article to the poll, “[I]t feels presumptuous for us to say we know Indians’ interests better than they do. We can’t credibly claim that 9 out of 10 Indians somehow just don’t realize they’re being insulted.”

Now, do I expect that the numbers would be the same for Chief Wahoo? No, not really. The Redskins logo is a more real rendition than the cartoonish Wahoo, so I’d expect more to be offended by the Cleveland logo. Still, if a the Washington Post can only find 9% of Native Americans offended, and if an associate editor finds that poll credible enough to stop actively protesting the Redskins, you have to consider this when dealing with any sort of Native American imagery. Actually, when asked, 73% — almost three-quarters – said they were “not at all” bothered by Native American sports imagery in general.

When asked about a specific controversy, we find out that it’s actually non-controversial. But that’s not good enough for the Left in this country. For them, any such imagery is offensive, even if those who are supposed to be offended aren’t actually offended. This smacks of coddling those groups. It’s talking down to them, almost like saying, “You should be offended, but since you don’t know any better, we’ll be offended for you.” If you want to empower a minority group, perhaps let them speak for themselves rather than jump in front of them and pretend to be their leader. And those who are legitimate leaders might want to get more in touch with their constituents.

But when the facts don’t support you, ignore them or discount them. I saw an example of this recently on Facebook. One of my friends posted enthusiastically about the demise of Chief Wahoo. In the comments I reminded him of that Washington Post poll. He doubted the methodology, and besides, we had treated them badly for generations. But you just know that if the results had been the opposite – if they’d agreed with his position – he’d have taken those results at face value and reposted them with the header “This!” or “Truth!”. To him, this proves that I have no empathy for Native Americans, bordering on racism.

As an aside, I think this is where some of the stereotype of the “racist Republican” comes from. Those on the Left assume that a particular minority group is, or should be, offended, and if someone on the Right shows that’s not the case, then they must be racist. If there is offense or harm being done, but a Republican has a different idea of how to remedy it, they’re racist because they don’t support the Left’s idea.

Anyway, to prove that they do have empathy, some on the Left will post some Facebook video of one person being offended by this or that and proclaim, “Truth!” One person ranting on a video versus a nationwide poll; that’s the kind of thinking we’re up against.

Let me say one thing about polling, however. Longtime listeners will know that I have been critical of polling in the past (and the present). Witness the debacle of the polls for the 2016 US Presidential election, or the Brexit vote in the UK. There is, however, a difference between polling to understand thoughts and feeling now, versus using them as a predictor of future events. A presidential election poll in February might help a candidate or a party plan strategy now, but it’s not very good at predicting the results in November. Trends might be helpful, but I think, especially in the Trump-Clinton election, there was a lot of wish-fulfillment going on with pollsters. I can say that in hindsight, however, because there was no way to know it at the time. I fully expected Clinton to win, based on the polls.

But for understanding thoughts or feelings in the here and now, polls can generally work well. And as I said, the 2004 Annenberg poll lined up almost completely with the 2016 Washington Post poll, showing that indeed Native Americans aren’t, on the whole, offended by sports imagery, and that has been constant for those 12 years. Now, this doesn’t predict how those feelings might change in the future, but for now, this is where we are, and it doesn’t seem to have changed much. In fact, McCartney found something even more startling. “Some Indians told The Post that they actively support the name, because its use means Native Americans haven’t been forgotten.” But I suppose someone on the Left would consider those Native Americans racist.

I’m not arguing that the Cleveland Indians should keep their logo. That’s not my call, and I don’t care one way or the other. But I don’t think anyone should be bullied into doing something for a reason that may not be as big a deal as it is portrayed.

Filed under: PollingRace Issues