It’s hard to believe, but former President Donald Trump is now a self-appointed protector of America’s heritage and an enemy of crazy ideas.

Trump, you see, is going to bat for the doomed Cleveland Indians. He regards the big-league club as a victim of politically correct zealots.

“Can anybody believe that the Cleveland Indians, a storied and cherished baseball franchise since taking the name in 1915, are changing their name to the Guardians? Such a disgrace, and I guarantee that the people who are most angry about it are the many Indians of our Country,” Trump wrote in an email distributed by his Save America PAC.

Trump blamed a few others besides the Cleveland team’s owners.

“A small group of people, with absolutely crazy ideas and policies, is forcing these changes to destroy our culture and heritage,” he wrote.

Trump’s complaint almost sounds like a sardonic account from the Onion, especially the part about his having the pulse of American Indians, as though they are monolithic.

It’s a lock that Trump never discussed his affinity for the Cleveland Indians with Santa Fe artist Charlene Teters.

A member of the Spokane Tribe and a retired dean of Santa Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts, Teters tried for three decades to change the Cleveland team’s mascot. She also challenged universities and other professional teams whose mascots were based on caricatures of Indians.

The starting point for Teters came on a winter night in the 1980s. She took her two children to a basketball game at the University of Illinois, where she was a graduate student in art.

Chief Illiniwek, the team mascot in feathers and fringe, paraded onto the court and broke into a dance.

“I saw my daughter try to become invisible. My son tried to laugh,” Teters said in Jay Rosenstein’s 1997 documentary In Whose Honor?

With two declarative sentences, Teters caused many to question the purpose of a garish mascot purporting to be an Indian warrior.

Early on, a university chancellor vouched for Chief Illiniwek but ordered cheerleaders to stop wearing warpaint. Trustees of the University of Illinois stood by their mascot until 2007, when they sidelined the controversial chief.

Even that was a partial victory for Teters. Merchandise featuring Chief Illiniwek remained on sale years later, as the university made the logo available to a private company.

Until that basketball game with her kids, Teters didn’t intend to lead a social movement. She told Rosenstein she did it in the interest of history.

“The fact that we even have anything today speaks to the strength of our ancestors, and that’s what I am protecting,” she said.

Teters drew national attention in Cleveland when Major League Baseball’s top talent arrived for the All-star game in 1997. Her primary complaint was about Chief Wahoo, then the Indians mascot.

“We call him Little Red Sambo,” Teters said.

All-Star games always draw the national news corps, and that one was especially well-attended. The Cleveland team had opened its majestic downtown ballpark three years earlier, but many reporters still hadn’t seen it.

What civic boosters hoped would be a festival of favorable publicity took a detour. Teters and others complained about Chief Wahoo depicting Indians as cartoon characters.

With his ruby-red complexion and picket-fence teeth, Chief Wahoo had been around since the 1940s. Some believed he would never be displaced.

But the Cleveland team removed the chief from its caps and jerseys in 2019. Teters persisted, saying the nickname Indians should also be retired.

As a founding member of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, she had plenty of critics. They said she captained the political correctness squad.

Teters stuck with her cause. The Washington Redskins were always high on her list of wrongheaded team names.

The football team’s principal owner, Daniel Snyder, promised he would never drop the name Redskins. He reversed himself last year after corporate sponsors rebelled against him.

Now known as the Washington Football Team, Snyder’s club plans to choose a new mascot next year.

There’s a ripple effect to all this. After Snyder folded, the board of the Cobre Consolidated School District in southwestern New Mexico retired Redskins as the mascot of Snell Middle School. Its teams are now the Miners.

Trump wonders what America is descending to with the advent of the Cleveland Guardians. This from a onetime commander-in-chief who dawdled when he should have stopped the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol — an insurgence intended to block Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.

It’s been a tough year for Trump. The Capitol survived, and the Cleveland Indians are fading away.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at or 505-986-3080.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at or 505-986-3080.

(22) comments

Mike Johnson

Problem solved....

Marie Naphsid

Louis Francis Sockalexis

Mark Ortiz

I’m going to guess that the majority of those that have different arguments against changing the mascot are non-Native. For the “what’s the big deal, it’s always been this way” crowd. Well some, say mainly Natives and those who’s consciousness is expanding/evolving from bigotry, are offended by it, as well as the Redskins name and the KC Chief and Atlanta Braves chant (to name a few). Obviously, this reason means nothing to you. Your defense will contain terms like cancel culture, the woke police, political correctness gone overboard. I wonder what the catch phrases were for those that opposed the women’s suffrage movement or even as recent as the late 60’s when my Mother’s income couldn’t be on my parent’s application to buy a house. Those who fought against these “rights” then, look pretty stupid now.

Those of you who don’t have a dog in the fight and say what’s the big deal, it’s just a mascot, well then, I’ll say I agree. What do you care what they call their team? I get that this is part of the bigger fight to keep the white power structure from being chipped away at, whether you yourselves realize that or not. If only half of you could not reach for these ignorant phrases but find empathy when we tell you racism still exists and it’s dangerous and hateful. Some say love the sinner, hate the sin but when your sin is a refusal to listen. I can only shake my head.

Mike Johnson

Well good, so you can say your tribe won here, and with the Redskins, Braves, etc. Enjoy your life then, I am sure it will be so much more fulfilling and wonderful since these things you find offensive have been removed. It will change your life, right?

Mark Ortiz

Good luck learning to walk and chew gum at the same time Mike. Doctor right. How is that even possible? So in the end it's come down to this huh Doc, posting on the SFNM web site.Like I told B Rosen, fighting against racial slurs and fighting for economic justice are not mutually exclusive. Speaking of offensive things, I'm sorry racist things that you hold so dear are being addressed. Chip chip chip to the white supremacy you love.

Mike Johnson

How convenient, "fighting" for economic justice, no doubt environmental justice and racial justice, and blaming "white supremacy" for anything about your life that didn't turn out the way you wanted. Much easier and more emotionally satisfying than looking in the mirror at who is really responsible for your life.

Mark Ortiz

Gosh Mike. You sure are mean. I guess I will look in the mirror and figure out why I'm so sensitive and hope someday we can be pals. What do you think Mike?

B. Rosen

I am in favor of calling people what they want to be called or refrain from calling them any name or using any name of theirs if they feel this is offensive to them, it seems like very little to ask. However, it really is just so much window dressing. Not one Native American’s life will be significantly improved by changing the name of a sport franchise, it won’t improve life on the reservation, it won’t serve as reparation for all that was taken from them when this continent was invaded.

Mark Ortiz

Fighting against racial slurs and fighting for economic justice are not mutually exclusive. I imagine those fighting to keep racist mascots also call the insurrectionists on Jan 6th, Patriots.

Gretchen Baltuff

“A small group of people, with absolutely crazy ideas and policies, is forcing these changes to destroy our culture and heritage,” he wrote. He is Trump.

I guess Trump doesn't know the history of how the Europeans, and he is one by the way, subjugated the Native Americans. I know Trump isn't the brightest bulb, but this is one of the most stupid comments he's ever made.

Khal Spencer

We had a good friend in Hawai'i who grew up either in or near Pekin, Illinois. She told us the story in the link below. Sometimes the naming does get pretty dumb by present standards.

Denise Jimenez

I would have opted for " The Fighting Pekingese"

Khal Spencer

Maybe the NY Mets should change their name to the New York Spaghetti Benders. I'm waiting for the San Francisco Giants to change their name because it is offensive to tall people.

Mike Johnson

Indeed their name is offensive. The proper present-tense form is "meets." And of course many are offensive in MLB, Cincinnati Reds - Red is the color of MAGA hats. Los Angeles Angels - Offensive to atheists.

Mike Johnson

My friends in Cleveland are disgusted by all this, and have no idea what a "Guardian" even is. I have to agree with them, the whole thing is ridiculous and getting worse in this country. Insanity continues unabated.

Richard Reinders

Agreed [thumbup]

rodney carswell

center of the universe

Mark Ortiz

Are they the only Clevelanders that don't know about the the four 93' statues called the Guardians of Traffic that adorn the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River?

So they don't like the changing of the mascot. Racism continues unabated as well.

David Heath

Surely the Boston Celtics and Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be next. No that's OK, us leprechauns are just a bunch of drunkin' pagans and apparently the last acceptable stereotype on earth. I'll drink to that. And don't call me Shirley :)

Khal Spencer


Jeff clark

If Fighting Irish and Celtics offends you, feel free to start your own campaign to get the names changed.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Thank-you Mr. Simonich, for another excellent piece.

Welcome to the discussion.

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