image courtesy of FenwayNation.com
Author: Marc Bona
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland Indians fans will not be able to paint their faces in Native American fashion or wear headdresses to games at Progressive Field this season, according to a new team policy. The no-tolerance policy also involves abusive or inappropriate language or conduct deemed disorderly or disruptive, and that includes “inappropriate dress.” The team says fans could be ejected or refused admission.
Restricted attire includes headdresses and face paint that references American Indian cultures and traditions. Inappropriate or offensive images, words, dress or face paint must be covered or removed. The prohibition extends to solicitation of contributions and distribution of literature at Progressive Field.The policy does not extend to the Chief Wahoo logo on attire, said Curtis Danburg, vice president of communications and community impact. And face paint with other messages – like an image of Slider or a player’s jersey number – is OK. Essentially, the policy appears to be akin to restaurants posting ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service’ guidelines.
The team already has done away with Chief Wahoo logos on uniforms, and last year announced a prospective move away from the name “Indians.” The controversy regarding Native Americans and sports fans has been one of the most divisive topics in sports in recent years. Some see the wearing of headdresses, the nicknames and certain chants in stadiums as mimicry, disrespectful, and demeaning of historical culture. Others see it simply as an expressive way to cheer for their team, an unharmful tradition and an unnecessary application of political correctness. For years in Cleveland, Opening Day showdowns outside Progressive Field were common between Native Americans and supporters facing off with fans adorned with Wahoo apparel. The controversy over nicknames regarding Native Americans is not endemic to Cleveland, though.
Last year, both the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks banned face paint and headdresses – though the hockey team’s main jersey logo continues to be the profile of a headdress-wearing Indian. After years of pressure, the Washington Redskins did away with their nickname, opting for the “Washington Football Team” starting last season.
The Atlanta Braves – who for years had Chief Noc-A-Homa parading through the stadium and on the field – tried to discourage fans from doing the slow, repetitive, chanting Tomahawk Chop in the 2019 National League Division Series. The team did not give away foam tomahawks, play music or show graphics to prompt the traditional chant – actions that came about after team officials met with Native Americans.