And if a player is drafted by Cleveland out of high school, he doesn’t have much of a say in the matter. But a free agent has tremendous influence. By signing with a team — the way Nick Swisher signed with Cleveland — he is in essence endorsing that franchise. If enough players refused to join the Indians, or simply expressed their reluctance, even prideful Cleveland fans would likely embrace the necessary change.
Native American activists continue to protest against Chief Wahoo, an unfortunate blind spot for Bud Selig. The commissioner has been at the forefront of Civil Rights issues regarding African-American pioneers like Jackie Robinson, yet he somehow doesn’t comprehend that this caricature is a disgrace that will forever tarnish his legacy. As one high-ranking Yankee official said, way back during the 2007 playoff series in Cleveland, “I can’t believe they still have that thing.” Six years later, Chief Wahoo is still around.
In the past, whenever I’ve asked players their opinions on Chief Wahoo, they’ve mostly shrugged. That includes CC Sabathia, who pitched for Cleveland, and Joba Chamberlain, whose Winnebago tribe ancestry should make him more sensitive to the issue.
As for Swisher, he was always an affable, talkative sort in the Yankee clubhouse — until the one time I asked him a meaningful question: Would he be willing to speak about his use of chewing tobacco, in order to dissuade kids who are considering that destructive habit? Swisher wanted nothing to do with the topic.
It’s never easy to step out of the box, out of one’s comfort zone. But sometimes it’s worth the trouble. No player can feel very good about donning that Indians’ cap, if he just thinks about it for a minute. If one or two free agents finally say something, maybe it goes away.
Posted: March 02, 2013 at 11:55 PM | 27 comment(s)
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