The American Indian Movement in Cleveland is pressuring the Cleveland Indians to change its name and mascot by asking team sponsor, Progressive Insurance, to support the removal of all racist mascots from Progressive Stadium in Ohio.
Cleveland AIM launched the campaign this month by sending the insurance company a certified letter asking for a meeting with their board members to discuss the removal of all racist imagery from their sponsored stadium. This marks a new strategy in trying to get the Indians to change their name and their racist mascot, Chief Wahoo.
The group also created a Change.org petition for supporters.
“The Progressive Field sponsorship provides Progressive the ability to increase our brand awareness in Ohio and throughout the country,” Progressive’s Public Relations Manager, Jeff Sibel, wrote ICTMN in an email. “Chief Wahoo or the nickname ‘Indians’ were never a part of our contract discussions with the team.”
AIM activist Bee Schrull said she wasn’t surprised to be brushed off by the national insurance company.
“That's telling. Their core values dictate they should have considered our lives before entering into contact with the ‘Indians,’” Schrull said.
On May 17, Cleveland AIM’s executive director, who goes by the name “Sundance,” received a response from The Progressive Corporation’s Chief Legal Officer and Vice President, Charles E. Jarrett, declining a meeting with the organization.
“While we understand your concerns, the Board believes your issue is with the Cleveland Indians Baseball Club and Major League Baseball,” the statement reads. “Progressive is under contract for the naming rights to the stadium for seven seasons beyond 2016 and no longer has any contractual right to terminate that contract. Those termination rights expired at the end of the 7th year of the naming rights contract in December 2014. Progressive also does not have any decision-making authority over the name or logo of the team. Because we do not have the legal rights to take the actions you request, the Board does not feel a meeting would be of value to either party. I would note that, to the best of my knowledge, in the approximately 45 years Progressive has been a public company with a Board of Directors, the Board has never met with an outside group.”
The battle to remove the name Indian and their mascot Chief Wahoo has been a long battle for Cleveland AIM. they were not surprised by the response they received from Progressive.
“They don’t seem to be very concerned about our issues and they are wiping their hands of the fact that they are sponsoring racism” said Sundance. “It’s a convenient excuse to use the contract but it does not preclude them from taking appropriate action. By putting pressure on a major sponsor of the team we hope the sponsor will in turn put pressure on Cleveland baseball.”
Cleveland AIM plans to continue asking Progressive to combat the racism they are sponsoring. It will continue to escalate its campaign against Progressive asking supporters to sign the petition and calling on a boycott of Progressive Insurance, Sundance said.
“They are beholden to their client base,” he said. “We have to consider a boycott. They are a national company and if they are supporting racism, we need to send a message that either by removing their name from the stadium or losing customers supporting racism will hurt their bottom line.”