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Native American issues statement after Portage Sheriff’s comments

Lake Erie Native American Council responds to Portage County Sheriff’s public comments on the Cleveland Indians’ name change

The Portage County Sheriff posted his thoughts on the change on the office’s Facebook page.

CLEVELAND — EDITOR’S NOTE: The video in the player above is from a previous story.

Over the weekend,  Portage County Sheriff Bruce Zuchowski used the office’s public Facebook page to speak out against the Cleveland Indians’ name change to the Guardians.

On Monday, the Lake Erie Native American Council released a statement, speaking out against Sheriff Zuchowski’s post. The statement read:

The Cleveland Indigenous Coalition has seen the troubling release from the desk of the Portage County Sheriff. We believe there are certainly important questions being raised on the ethics of official releases regarding personal opinions. Yet, these personal opinions do not supersede what hundreds of actual tribal governments, including the Cherokee Nation, dozens of national Native American organizations, and countless other Indigenous leaders know from lived experience: These mascots are harmful and must be removed.

“There is a growing body of scientific research that clearly demonstrates Native American team names and logos contribute to low self-esteem, low community worth, increased negative feelings of stress and depression in Native people—especially Native youth. The Cleveland baseball team changed their name after taking the time to listen, learn, and understand the issue more deeply. We urge Sheriff Zuchowski to do the same.”

Zuchowski’s post has more than 10,000 reactions, 12,000 comments and 3,700 shares as of Monday afternoon. His statement, which was posted on Saturday, read:

“In response to the recent announcement made by Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team, I felt compelled to make a statement on behalf of the silent majority.

“For the past few days, the release has been weighing heavy on my mind with disappointment and hopelessness. I thought back to the roots of baseball – an American family tradition. Sometimes referred to as America’s National Pastime, the game of baseball has played an active role in our nation for centuries. When I was a child, I remember observing my grandfathers watching the Indians game on TV or listening on their AM radios. They both loved the Indians back in the day. Today, I know they are both turning over in their grave with anguish and disgust toward the recent actions. My wife is a descendent from the Cherokee and Blackfoot American Indian tribe. Both she and her relatives never viewed the Cleveland Indians as a biased or prejudiced team but rather their hometown baseball franchise. This is once again another attempt of trying to erase our history due to the outcry of the few that affects the many. 

“I have boycotted professional sports for the past three years and if you were to ask me who the starting lineup was for the Indians, I couldn’t tell you. Some may question if I don’t care to watch or follow their progress, why should I care about their name change? The fact is that the general standpoint is not about this particular position taken by the team but rather the principle of the decision-making process. 

“These unfortunate decisions are being made while continuously impacting individuals and industries across the nation. Both lawmakers and decision-makers need to begin to think about the majority of their constituents before caving to the impulsive demands being made by a small group of the public.”

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