Using a critical theory approach, this paper examines how perceptions of historical accuracy impact on the legitimation of the Cleveland Indians’ claim that the Native imagery used in the promotion of the franchise was chosen to honor the first Native American to play in the major leagues, Louis Francis Sockalexis. An analysis was conducted of data gathered from Cleveland’s own account of the naming of the franchise along with past and present renderings and antecedents of the story as they appear in a variety of publications and media sources over a 100-year time period beginning in 1897 and ending in 1997. In light of the findings, Cleveland’s professed organizational intent to honor Sockalexis was tested and found to be based on faulty information. The implications of this discovery are addressed.
E.J. Staurowsky is with the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences at the Hill Center, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY 14850.