Cleveland and its Obvious P.R. Stunt Mean Nothing

Progressive Field in Cleveland
Progressive Field in Cleveland, where the city's baseball team plays. PHOTO CREDIT: Erik Drost//Flickr

There are few things in this world more full of shit than massive corporations and the people who lead them. Elon Musk cashed out on Paypal at a prudent moment. So, we hail him as a genius while everything he touches turns to shit. Steve Jobs got the full-service biopic package from Aaron Sorkin a few years ago to cement his image, even though his impact on humankind can be measured in suicide nets. No matter how many times big brands and rich assholes do their best to loose Nyarlathotep upon our realm, there’s always a legion of suckers ready to take any attempt to launder their reputations in good faith. This week, we saw just this happen when the Cleveland-based MLB franchise announced it would finally stop calling itself the “Indians…”

…in 2022

…but still sell Chief Wahoo merchandise.

Those walk backs were available to everybody that covered the name news. But sports and non-sports outlets alike led with a story about a franchise coming to its senses for the good of the community. They’re literally keeping the name on the jerseys next season. Yet people are still fellating them. They literally open the press release announcing the name change with the name.

There is no reading of this decision that doesn’t reek of hypocrisy and profiteering. It’s with the sort of calculated kindness that lets brands market themselves as integral to the world while literally butchering the people in their way. It is the exact same hypocrisy that infests the very bones of America. It’s born at the moment people who owned people wrote something called the Declaration of Independence. 

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The controversy around Cleveland’s name is decades old. The Dolans (yep) bought the Cleveland-based team in 2000. The name stayed the same through 20 years of ownership. The Dolans defending it at every turn since the beginning after all. Are we supposed to give them credit now because they used buzzwords like “conversation” when they made a call the world has been screaming at them to make?

These are people who have profited off the legacy of genocide for decades. They have stated intentions to keep drawing from that well. They can go fuck themselves.

It does not matter how much money you give to native organizations by selling Chief Wahoo merch, it’s still evil. At best, this is just another example of the way corporations use philanthropy to launder their reputation. But they’ll still tear through the world around them. Seeing as how this imagery is part of the lineage of caricatures that dehumanized Indigenous Americans and paved the way for genocide, I don’t see this is any different from selling swastikas and donating the proceeds to the Holocaust Museum. The fucking mascot is in the Jim Crow Museum and these guys still aren’t getting rid of it.

This was as clear a PR stunt for Cleveland as there has ever been. It’s a move that corrected the terrible history of indigenous exploitation in American sports not one inch. This simple concession, won after years and years of protest from Native activists, was robbed of any worth in its fine print. Anybody who treats it differently is a rube, or just acting in bad faith. 

The only thing this team could do to make up for its harms is pass off this planet entirely. So please, for the love of all that is good and just in this world, do not buy the merchandise these assholes are getting ready to hock. Your soul is better off if you give that money to help bail out Native activists. You for sure go to Hell if you don’t.

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