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World Series puts team's controversial name, mascot in spotlight

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

LAWRENCE — Game one of the 2016 World Series is scheduled for tonight, and to say it’s a historic series is an understatement. Both the Cleveland and Chicago teams are looking to end championship droughts of 60-plus and 100-plus years, respectively. Aside from the baseball and history aspects, there is some controversy surrounding the fall classic, as many consider the Cleveland team’s use of the name “Indians” and mascot, known as Chief Wahoo, to be offensive and a racist caricature.

Two University of Kansas professors are available to speak with the media about the Indians mascot, the law surrounding use of such logos, sports marketing and more.

Elizabeth Kronk Warner, professor of law and director of the Tribal Law & Government Center at the KU School of Law, can discuss the Indians mascot, law, copyright law, Native American concerns and related topics. A citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Kronk Warner is an appellate judge for the tribe’s appeals court in Michigan and teaches courses in federal Indian law, Native American natural resources and property. Kronk Warner can also discuss how the situation compares with that of the Washington, D.C., NFL football team, which had its copyright canceled in 2014 for use of a racially offensive term.

Brian Gordon, assistant professor of health, sport and exercise science, can discuss the Indians’ mascot, the Cubs’ historic postseason drought, sports marketing, retro sports marketing, branding and related topics. Gordon researches sports marketing, branding and why teams and fans choose to use certain mascots and how sporting teams market themselves, as well as fan behavior. He is an alumnus of Florida State University and grew up near the University of Illinois and its mascot Chief Illiniwek, both of which have been discussed at length for being potentially offensive mascots as well.

“Due to the enormous marketing platform that is the World Series, I find it even more troubling how prominent a Native American caricature (Chief Wahoo) is being displayed so overtly on the hat and on the sleeve of the uniform, despite the fact that the organization claimed that this imagery was being designated as a secondary logo,” Gordon said. “Further, the World Series is going to highlight how fans of the team are misrepresenting Native culture in and around the event site. My only hope is that these prominent displays of racist and insensitive portrayals further spark a national conversation about promoting positive social change.”

To schedule an interview with Kronk Warner and/or Gordon, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860 or mkrings@ku.edu.

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