by Gregg Lee

Cleveland, Ohio- Chief Wahoo, mascot for the Cleveland Indians baseball team, is again in danger of being scalped in the name of political correctness. The subject of a firestorm of controversy in recent years, the smiling Native American caricature now carries the dubious distinction of being the first and only symbol to be banned from the local public library. Library Executive Director John Lonsak announced in April of this year that employees of the library could no longer don Indians jerseys or other apparel that sported the image of Chief Wahoo.

Claiming the ban is beyond the limit of established dress codes, Raymond Vasvari, ACLU legal director in Ohio, says that "when a government employer allows certain sports attire and bans others based on the possibility of offense, the employees have been denied their First Amendment rights."

Indeed, the library ban is only the latest in an endless string of controversy involving Wahoo. Earlier this year, Native Americans held protests outside Jacobs Field, demanding the removal of Wahoo as the team mascot. Protests such as the one in Cleveland have been instrumental in the changing of over 200 professional, amateur, and academic-level sports teams. In April of 1996 Bob Roche, an executive director of the American Indian Movement in Cleveland, wrote an editorial on the subject that galvanized the Native American community. In it, he claimed "The struggle is not about the mascot, it's not about the name. What it really is about is racism, racism right here in Cleveland, Ohio."

But the ACLU argues that racism doesn't enter into the library ban. Vasvari says that "no one has the right to tell public employees which logos are acceptable and which are offensive." The ACLU continues to investigate the policy and encourages library employees to contact the local ACLU office if they feel their rights have been violated.

And might we suggest to the Cuyohoga County Public Library that the words "ban" and "library" should NEVER appear in the same sentence. While it's understandable that the library feels the need to serve the community, it should be pointed out that THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY needs to be served. And part of the library's responsibility as a government entity is to respect not just the ethnic diversity of Cleveland, but also its cultural diversity.

Perhaps we should dumb this down for the library's sake: BANNING SPORTS LOGOS IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!! That simple enough? The library would be flabbergasted at the number of "offensive" logos and symbols which appear within the pages of its very own books. How long will it be before the library issues and edict on those??? Can you say "book banning"?

While we at ROC are sensitive to the plight of ongoing racism felt by Native Americans, we do not feel that this attempted ban on articles of clothing accomplishes anything other than giving government the power to censor anything it feels. All they have to do is point to any interest group that is offended by anything they decide to ban, and then a new restrictive policy would be set. For that reason, and regardless of how you may feel on the issue of the use of Native American names/symbols as logos or mascots for sports teams, unconstitutional policies such as these designed to usher in policy that is purely "politically correct" at the expense of our free speech rights must be stopped. It's one thing to wish for people to follow a supposed "socially enlightened" path, it's quite another to mandate it.

We urge you to contact the following organizations to let them know this particular act of censorship won't fly:

Cuyahoga County Public Library
Executive Director John Lonsak

The Cleveland City Council
City Hall, Room 216
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
(216) 664-2840

Phone Numbers
1 Joseph T. Jones
(216) 664-4944
2 Robert J. White, III
(216) 664-4237
3 Odelia V. Robinson
(216) 664-4945
4 Kenneth L. Johnson
(216) 664-4941
5 Frank G. Jackson
(216) 664-2309
6 Patricia J. Britt
(216) 664-4234
7 Fannie M. Lewis
(216) 664-2908
8 Bill W. Patmon
(216) 664-4231
9 Craig E. Willis
(216) 664-4252
10 Roosevelt Coats
(216) 664-4743
11 Michael D. Polensek
(216) 664-4236
12 Edward W. Rybka
(216) 664-4233
13 Joe Cimperman
(216) 664-2691
14 Nelson Cintron, Jr.
(216) 664-3706
15 Merle R. Gordon
(216) 664-4238
16 Michael C. O'Malley
(216) 664-2943
17 Timothy J. Melena
(216) 664-4235
18 Jay Westbrook
(216) 664-4230
19 Joseph J. Zone
(216) 664-3708
20 Martin J. Sweeney
(216) 664-2942
21 Michael A. Dolan
(216) 664-4239
Clerk Cecelia R. Huffman
(216) 664-4551

Ohio Office of the ACLU
Executive Director Christine Link

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