In a section on forms of “inappropriate language or conduct” that could be considered grounds for ejection or refusal of admission, the team said it is including “headdresses and face paint styled in a way that references or appropriates American Indian cultures and traditions. … Inappropriate or offensive images, words, dress or face paint must be covered or removed.”
Fans will still be allowed to wear apparel bearing images of Chief Wahoo, the former mascot that was phased out after the 2018 season, a team executive told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Face paint of a different nature — bearing a player’s number, for example, or the team’s block-C logo — will also be acceptable.
Cleveland joins the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks in banning Native American-themed face paint and headdresses. Starting in 2022, it will join the NFL’s Washington Football Team as major U.S. sports franchises to drop long-standing team names associated with Native American culture.
“While Indians will always be a part of our history,” team owner Paul Dolan said in a December statement, “it is time to move forward and work to unify our stakeholders and fans through a new name.”
The Cleveland Indigenous Coalition said in a statement Wednesday that it “continues to work closely with the Cleveland MLB team during this period of transition, and we are encouraged by the team’s cooperation in listening to our recommendations and input.”
“The donning of headdresses and stereotypical Native American-style face paint reflects and reinforces harmful stereotypes, which hurt our community — especially our Native youth,” the statement said. “By enforcing the removal of Native American headdresses and Native American-style face paint for the 2021 season, the team is creating a more inclusive experience for all fans.”
“This is absolutely the product of over 60 years of fighting,” Cynthia Connolly, an official with the Lake Erie Native American Council, told Cleveland station WKYC. “This is a form of systemic racism and it’s rooted in a lot of prejudice and stereotypes. What I like to say is, we are permanently feathered and leathered in the past, rather than your neighbors, your co-workers and your classmates. So, it’s really encouraging to see these changes happen, and our community is truly looking forward to showing who we truly are.”
Cleveland starts its season in Detroit on Thursday with a three-game series against the Tigers before Monday’s home opener against the Kansas City Royals.