The Cleveland Plain Dealer comes out strongly against Chief Wahoo


The Cleveland Plain Dealer, for the first time, has published an editorial calling for the Indians to get rid of Chief Wahoo. After noting that the team didn’t bring the old neon Wahoo sign from Municipal Stadium 20 years ago, thus suggesting that even the team feels Wahoo is unacceptable to some degree, the paper calls for the Indians to go further:

Just as that giant graphic image was retired from the line-up, smaller ones should be, too. That includes Wahoo-adorned promotions at the ballpark and small Wahoo patches worn on some of the players’ hats and sleeves. A demeaning symbol is a demeaning symbol, regardless of degree.

And then, after addressing the fans’ attachment, notes that doing the right thing is necessary, even if it tramples on nostalgia:

The bottom line is that having Wahoo on the roster won’t provide the team with a right-handed power hitter, a shutdown closer or a third baseman who can hit. Wahoo contributes nothing to the performance of the Indians on the field, and makes the team seem hopelessly backward in the eyes of the world.

One day, the Indians will say goodbye to Wahoo. It’s inevitable. And it’s a little unsettling that it hasn’t happened by now. Why cling to Wahoo when it so clearly offends?

This, I feel, is significant. It’s one thing for random people like me to call for the end of Wahoo, but for the largest newspaper in the city and the state to come out with an official editorial and to plainly call it racist is something else.

The Indians, though they won’t admit it, are clearly diminishing Wahoo’s role in the team’s iconography. Here’s hoping this official disapprobation hastens the process.

Spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws

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Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post reports that, according to three congressional officials familiar with current talks, an upcoming spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws. This is an issue we have spent some time covering here. A bill proposed in 2016, H.R. 5580, would have amended language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which would have made it so minor leaguers wouldn’t be protected under a law that protects hourly workers. There is also an ongoing class action lawsuit over unfair labor prospects.

As DeBonis notes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is among the representatives backing the measure. The provision specifically concerning minor leaguers didn’t appear in any of the draft spending bills, but DeBonis spoke to officials familiar with the negotiations under the condition of anonymity who said it was under serious consideration by top party leaders.

DeBonis got a comment from Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner. He said, “We’re not saying that [minor league pay] shouldn’t go up. We’re just saying that the formula of minimum wage and overtime is so incalculable. I would hate to think that a prospect is told, ‘You got to go home because you’re out of hours, you can’t have any extra batting practice.’ It’s those kinds of things. It’s not like factory work. It’s not like work where you can punch a time clock and management can project how many hours they’re going to have to pay for.”

O’Conner said as much in an interview back in December. It’s an extremely disingenuous deflection. O’Conner also said, “I don’t think that minor league baseball is a career choice for a player.” This is all about creating legislation that allows Minor League Baseball to keep money at the top, which is great if you’re a team owner or shareholder. If they could get away with it, every owner of every business would pay its employees as little as possible, which is why it’s important to have unions and people keeping an eye on legislation like this that attempts to strip laborers of their rights in the dead of night.

Minor league players need to unionize. Or, better yet, the MLBPA should open their doors to include minor leaguers and fight for them just as they would a player who has reached the majors. Minor leaguers should be paid a salary with which they do not have to worry about things like rent, electricity, food, and transportation. They should be provided healthcare and a retirement fund. And if anyone tries to tell you it’s not affordable, MLB eclipsed $10 billion in revenues last year. There’s plenty to go around.

The owners are banking on this legislation passing and labor still coming in excess due to young men holding onto the dream of making the major leagues. According to CNN, “far less than 10 percent of minor league players ever get the chance to make it to the major leagues.” Some of these players have forgone college to work in baseball. They arrive at the park in the morning and leave late at night, putting in far more than your standard eight-hour work day. Since their bodies are their vehicle for success, they have to exercise regularly and vigorously off the field while maintaining a healthy diet. (And teams are still reluctant to invest even the smallest amount of money to ensure their young players eat well.) Minor leaguers make tremendous sacrifices to pursue their dream and now Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Congress to legalize taking further advantage of them.