I put Chief Wahoo in a box tonight. Four t-shirts, four hats, one windbreaker, and one sweatshirt. I had a moment with each of them, silently recalling the story through which they had been obtained. Just because I was being sentimental does not mean it was difficult. It was not difficult.

It started earlier this week. I was thinking about the laughably bad Brad Paisley song, “Accidental Racist,” in which he essentially defends a confederate flag on his t-shirt on the premise of, “but, I just like the band, man!” If that’s not ignorant enough, this only occurs to him upon being served a coffee by a black person at Starbucks. But, if you ask Paisley:

“I’m just a white man comin’ to you from the southland
Tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be
I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done
And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history”

This song is clearly not worth analyzing any further, but thinking about it did make me introspective: do I ever sound this stupid? Because I unfortunately can relate to Brad Paisley. I know the feeling of running into a marginalized person, wearing a shirt that features a symbol emblematic of the alienation that they and their ancestors have likely endured.

Two years ago I took my girlfriend to a Cleveland Indians game in Oakland. Outside the stadium, small groups of Native Americans were protesting my favorite team: “Natives Are Not Mascots” was their thesis, featured on their hoisted signage. I tried to have a fruitful discussion with one of them, explaining that the team was named for a Native American. I have since learned that this claim is dubious at best, and more importantly, I have accepted that it doesn’t fucking matter: the intentions behind an action do not, and should not, dictate the resulting perception of the act. I only felt slightly stupid that day. These days I cringe thinking about that interaction: my defense was farcical.

As the Washington Redskins’ name has come under fire, the Indians’ cartoonish symbol has existed only on the fringe of the national discussion. This is likely due to the Indians being a less popular team, in a smaller city, in a less popular sport. But privately, many of my friends have told me that they find Chief Wahoo even more offensive than “Redskins” being the name of the football team representing our nation’s capital, in our nation’s most popular sport. I say this not because I agree or disagree, but to illustrate that there are plenty of people that find Wahoo more objectionable than a mascot that just lost its federal trademark because it is “disparaging to Native Americans.”

The Cleveland Indians, as an organization, have been more progressive than the Washington Redskins in reducing their racist emissions, though the football team has not set the bar very high. While the Redskins have gone out of their way to defend their name in increasingly embarrassing ways, the Indians have moved toward using a block-C on their hats, and rumors exist that they are “phasing out” Chief Wahoo. Spokespeople and Indians employees have maintained that the rumors are false, but Wahoo has less of a presence anywhere you look. When the Indians do feature him on their hats, he is about half the size he was in the 1990s. The batting helmets now feature the block-C in lieu of the logo in question. Even if they do not have current plans to abandon the logo, it is clear that they are hedging their bets by laying the groundwork for a potential transition.

But what can I do? How can I, the plebeian sports fan that I am, advocate against a symbol that I think should be changed? This is the question I used to think did not have an obvious answer. But doing nothing is no longer acceptable, even if anything I do will have a severely limited impact on the overall discussion, and potential eradication of Chief Wahoo. And I am not willing to stop cheering for the Cleveland Indians. I have become too attached to the players, the ballpark, and the direction in which the franchise is going. Taking those things into consideration, I have decided to make a small gesture — the easiest course of action, in a lot of ways — in that I will no longer be wearing an offensive, racist logo on my person. I will continue to seek out Indians memorabilia that does not feature the Chief.

I am not writing this –or doing this– with aspirations of martyrdom. I do not think this will make a real dent in the issue. I am writing this with the hope that it might make one other Indians fan do the same (though I know that is unlikely). I am doing this partially because I am sick of considering what kind of people I will be hanging out with before I choose my baseball cap for the night — will this be a liberal, sensitive crowd, or can I rock my Wahoo without fear of offending somebody? I am doing this partially because I selfishly do not want to be on the wrong side of history. But mostly, I am doing this because everyone should be offended by our unnecessarily disparaging portrayal of a group of people that have consistently been undermined and marginalized by the government that runs our country.

The truth is, I am still able to make positive associations with that comically racist, grinning, red-faced caricature: to me, it represents the baseball team I cheer for. But honestly? I have the ability to make those positive associations with an upper-case letter, and there are groups of people out there that make abjectly negative associations with Chief Wahoo. This was not a trying process for me, and has been for many Native Americans. It is unclear why it took me so long to stop perpetuating a negative characterization of people I have no business trivializing. Perhaps my favorite baseball organization will look back one day and feel the same way.

So I put Chief Wahoo in a box tonight. It was not difficult.