A youth baseball club in a southwest Ontario town has decided to drop its Indians name and logo, calling it an attempt to set a good example and teach its players about respect.
The Alvinston Indians, who use a logo similar to Chief Wahoo of Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians, plan to come up with a new name and have started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the cost of replacement uniforms, equipment and ballpark signage.
"Our message is that if the pro teams aren't willing to do this and take the lead on this, then us little-leaguers will," said coach Dan Cumming, who sits on the Alvinston Minor Ball Association's board of directors.
The association, which hopes to raise $29,000, has used the Indians name for 60 years. Cumming said a number of new names and logos are being considered, but a decision has not yet been made.
"Especially in the last couple of years, it's something that we as parents and coaches became conscious of," Cumming said. "Sometimes others coaches would come and talk to us about it."
The subject has received heightened attention with Cleveland enjoying a long playoff run this post-season. An effort to ban the Indians from using their name and Chief Wahoo logo — a grinning cartoon man with red skin and a feather in his headband — was dismissed by an Ontario judge before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The judge issued his ruling after lawyers for an indigenous activist sought to bar use of the team's name and logo in Ontario, arguing they amounted to racial discrimination. The Indians dropped Chief Wahoo as their primary logo two years ago although it's still featured prominently on hats and uniform sleeves.
"I think the writing is on the wall, really. I would encourage them to join us," Cumming said. "I can tell you first-hand that it feels really good to make this decision and (to see) all the support come pouring in. I would say that if we can do it, then there's no reason why they can't too. They certainly have a lot more resources than we have.
"In that regard, I'd maybe even encourage them to visit our GoFundMe page and make a donation."
Alvinston, located about 60 kilometres outside of Sarnia, Ont., has over 220 players in its system. Cumming said players from nearby First Nations communities participate in the leagues and some teams play on reserves in the area.
The Cleveland Indians will take on the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night in Game 6 of the World Series at Progressive Field. A Native American advocacy group is planning a protest outside the stadium.
There have been demonstrations at Cleveland's home opener every season for decades. The team has said it understands there are passionate views about the logo but will keep using it on uniforms and caps.
Similar calls have been made for the NFL's Washington Redskins and CFL's Edmonton Eskimos to change their names.
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press