Co.Design

Native Americans Counter Racist Iconography With Racist Baseball Caps

In 2001, the National Congress of American Indians released a wickedly biting poster of racist baseball caps. But it’s just as relevant today as it was then.

If you’ve missed the controversy, everyone from Sports Illustrated to Barack Obama has weighed in on the latest hot topic in football. It’s not concussions. It’s the team name Washington Redskins. Today, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has released a report of their own on the topic, titled Ending the Legacy of Racism in Sports & the Era of Harmful "Indian" Sports Mascots.

But a bit over a decade ago, they released an argument against "Indian" sports mascots that was even more cutting. It was this poster, showing the (pretty unquestionably racist!) Cleveland Indians logo (that’s still in use today!), alongside hypothetical team equivalents, the New York Jews and the San Francisco Chinamen. Needless to say, even if you would make an argument that the Cleveland Indians logo is a piece of steadfast, time-honored tradition, as soon as that toothy-grinned parody sits alongside a few peers, it’s an anachronistic gut-punch that contextualizes the absurdity (and yes, the racism).

We’ve reached out to the NCAI to learn more about the poster’s original design. But if you’d like to learn more about racism in sports iconography, their new report is a great place to start.

UPDATE: An original version of this article reported that the poster was produced in the 1990s, per the NCAI Twitter account. Slate reports the poster was actually produced for the NCAI by by advertising firm Devito/verdi in 2001.

Read it here.

[Hat tip: Political Blindspot]

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40 Comments

  • RyanTee82

    I wish they'd done a black and an hispanic one, too, especially since everyone is saying the banner would have been even more effective (and they're right).

    Time to change the mascot, folks. Its over. Seriously.

  • JeromeD

    As a jew, I can tell you that there will NEVER be a sports team bearing the jews as their symbol. We may dominate a lot of intellectual fields, but we kinda stink at sports. I mean REALLY stink.

    While the hat doesn't insult me, it definitely makes me more aware of the legitimacy behind their argument (that other people may be insulted without being hyper-sensitive).

    I don't think the team should be forced to change it's name unless it decides to, but I see now the legitimacy behind both sides.

  • Mahome

    This is bass akwards: I just can't wait until the African American one comes out...I wounder what it would say/look...smh

  • joshuakrane

    I have never wanted a hat more than that New York Jews hat. Someone has to have made them

  • Chazer

    I get it, but I think the issue is overblown. As a Mexican, it would be like me asking Warner Brothers to do away with any Speedy Gonzalez cartoon because it presents a very inaccurate portrayal of Mexicans. 

    We do not wear sombreros, yell ándale all the time or have that accent. And yet I, and most Mexicans and Mexican-Americans do not give a flying f**k about it. I refuse to become a victim or spend my energy being offended by other people's ignorance.

  • whatever

    Let's not forget the Inca, Aztec people... and we killed more than a few down there in Texas.  Do you not remember the Alamo?  I mean come on, remember the Alamo at least.

  • Darkness Dragon

    Let's make it very simple.

    "It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.'
    as if that gives them certain rights; it's actually nothing more...
    it's simply a whine. It's no more than a whine. 'I find that offensive,'
    it has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected
    as a phrase. 'I am offended by that,' well so fucking what?" - Stephen
    Fry

    "Announcing 'I'm offended' is basically telling the world you can't
    control your own emotions, so everyone else should do it for you." -
    Unknown

    Ergo, someone's offended? Big fucking deal, maybe we're all offended that they're offended. Ever thought about that? Or maybe it's that "all feelings are equal, just some more than others"-egalitarian bullshit.

  • Luca Candela

    I'm Italian. As such, I'm part of a "used to be a minority, now we're white" that was (and still is) made fun of in ways that are sometimes annoying or just plain racist.

    And you know what? We can take it. You want to change a team mascot to "Greasy Guido"? Fine. As long as we realize that stereotypical generalizations are just that. Seems like even native americans have bigger problems to fight for, and that's what they're spending their minuscule political capital on?

    If I was a tribesman I would be furious. Poverty, malnutrition, broken families and lack of education are problems that plague many, many tribal communities (part of my family comes from that background) and they fight for a fucking mascot?

    Politicians all suck, no matter their ethnic background.

  • RyanTee82

    You don't have room to complain, not really. Italian doesn't equal native american and it it never has.

  • Juba Kalamka

    Real white folks don't say they "used to be white". They don't feel compelled to acknowledge such. They know better. :-)

  • HarrietFlower

    We too often think nothing of racist depictions such as the Cleveland Indian's logo because we've grown up with sports teams logos.  The Indian's logo seems just the same as the others- cartoonish, colorful, and fun.  But when you reflect on how a Native American might see this logo- the Indiana's logo can be seen in a whole new light.  The mascot's skin is bright red.  He doesn't look like a real person.  He looks too silly and can easily be made fun of.  Depicting a race through a goofy-looking mascot is never a good idea, especially if people of that race are offended and voice their discontentment with the mascot. 
     
    The Native Americans have had to fight their way through history just to survive; they received horrible treatment and are still being treated unfairly by the government.  The Cleveland Indians logo does not give Native American people the honor and justice that they deserve and have deserved all along.  It merely groups Native Americans into an unhealthy stereotype that depicts them as something less than human. 

  • Jeff Nagata

    Are all these people defending this mascot serious? There are thousands of Native American tribes all over that are struggling to survive, living in extreme poverty as a result of the abuse incurred by the U.S. The abuse is on-going, too. Read about the decimation of the Navajo land by Peabody Coal Mine Company in northern Arizona. Read about the Bennett Freeze, enacted by the U.S. government in 1966 that left thousands of Navajo families without adequate shelter, running water, or electricity. This isn't something that happened in the history books, it's a tragedy that is affecting thousands of real people today. 

    For many of the families I've met in the Navajo Nation, their culture is one of the only things that keeps them going, and mascots like these is a huge blow to the perceived beauty of that culture. Maybe this whole thing is overblown, but if it's not such a big deal, then why not just change the mascot? Why can't we at least do that? 

  • HandsomeJohnnyTubeSteaks

    Because they shouldn't have to if they don't want to. Simple as that. I am not so much defending the mascot as defending freedom of speech and the fact that such less politically correct views and expressions stay protected. Being of Jewish descent, I found the New York Jews hat hilarious. What does "my peoples'" history and atrocities in Nazi, Germany have to do with what's being presented? You have every right to be offended, but don't expect every little instance to be corrected by an individual or company just because you want to give everyone a lesson in history and morality. Just don't support said company.