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Native Americans plan protests at World Series

October 21, 1995
Web posted at: 10:25 p.m. EDT

Russ Jamieson From Reporter Russ Jamieson

Indian leaders ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- On the eve of the '95 World Series, Native American groups are once again protesting the use of their cultural symbols. American Indian Movement (AIM) leaders said they plan protests outside both teams' stadiums before each game in an attempt to raise fan awareness.

On one side of the controversy are the Cleveland Indians and their logo, "Chief Wahoo." And on the other side, the Atlanta Braves. American Indian Movement leaders say that the logos carry offensive connotations. "We're here to demand that both these teams change their names," said Ken Rhyne of AIM.

Braves and Indians logo "Tomorrow, you're going to see two teams come together in the largest mass demonstration of cultural cross-dressing in this nation's history," Michael Haney, also of AIM, said Friday.

In 1991 and 1992, the same Native American leaders staged protests against Braves fans who dressed as Indians and did the "tomahawk chop." Since then, they've gone even further, filing lawsuits in Atlanta, Kansas City, Cleveland and Washington over team logos.

Cleveland Indians pitcher Charles Nagy said the symbols don't hold any special meaning for him. "I understand what all the fuss is about, but to me it's just a team logo," Nagy said.

Braves President Stan Kasten is steering clear of the issue. "Well then, if this is the week that I have no comment, then I can probably avoid all further discussion on this, right?"

Other team officials want to avoid the issue as well, while city leaders say that they will be sensitive. "America is a great country. We're able to accommodate all means of protest and all means of expression," said Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell. "We'll be sensitive to their feelings and we'll go from there."

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Nevertheless, as the World Series approaches, fans have been sweeping shirts and hats bearing both team's logos from store shelves. "I really don't think everything has to be judged from a cultural level," said Cleveland fan Euginia Schmidley, who is Caucasian. "Some things are just fun and they're not meant to make a statement."

But Rhyne of AIM thinks using Native American images for fun is inappropriate. "If this was the Atlanta Negroes or the Atlanta Hispanics, the stadium would be burned down overnight," he said.

AIM leaders said they are surprised and disappointed that they have no support from civil rights leaders in the cradle of that movement, Atlanta.

But one Native-American says that all the energy being funneled into this protest might be best used elsewhere. "If all of the teams changed their names tomorrow, would it help our community? I don't think so," said Martin Carney of the Native-American Center.

President Clinton, in his weekly radio address, urged Americans of all races to see the games as a part of history and a time to set aside differences. "But tonight, I just hope Americans will be able to take their minds off all that and their own work for a moment. I hope they'll be able to wonder, instead, at the arc of a home run, a catch at the wall, the snap of the ball in the back of a mitt."

Soon these sights and sounds will become a new part of our shared national memory of baseball. Saturday night, fans of the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves will watch with special interest. But all Americans have reason to smile, for baseball is back." (346k AIFF sound or 346k WAV sound)

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