POSTED: Friday, December 28, 2012 - 11:00pm
UPDATED: Friday, December 28, 2012 - 11:04pm
NATIONAL NEWS (CNN) — The Atlanta Braves are reportedly bringing back a controversial screaming Indian logo in their new design for batting practice caps, unveiled in a blog post on ESPN.
Writer Paul Lukas of Uni Watch, who broke the news of the new cap design, said he got a first look at the hat designs from an "industry source."
He gave a failing grade to the Braves logo featuring a Native American wearing a mohawk and a feather in his hair and belting out a tribal yell.
"Last year the Braves conspicuously avoided using their 'screaming Indian' logo as a sleeve patch on their retro alternate jersey -- a welcome move for those of us who oppose the appropriation of Native American imagery in sports," Lukas wrote. "Unfortunately, it turns out that the logo hasn't been permanently mothballed. Disappointing. Grade: F."
Braves officials deferred comment to Major League Baseball, which told CNN that the new batting practice cap designs for several MLB clubs, including the Braves, were still in development and may never end up on the diamond.
"We will unveil the program when it is finalized," the MLB statement said. "We do not know where (ESPN) obtained the designs. We can not make them available to CNN because they are not finalized or approved."
The screaming Indian was part of the Braves logo when the team moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee in 1966. It was retired in 1989.
The team also had a mascot, Chief Noc-a-Homa (knock a homer), who wore Native American dress and war paint.
The possibility of a new cap design drew fire from those who believe the image caters to unhealthy stereotypes of Native Americans.
Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, said he was deeply disappointed that the Braves may be choosing to go backwards.
Gover, 57, said he grew up with all sorts of stereotypes. He was hoping his grandchildren wouldn't.
"What this does is contribute to the casual racism native people are subjected to in our society," said Gover, a member of the Pawnee Nation.
The screaming Indian is an image of an imaginary Indian, Gover said. It and other stereotypical sports mascots, he said, do not portray Native Americans for what they truly are.
American Indian Movement founder Clyde Bellecourt said Native Americans "no longer want to be mascots for America's fun and games."
"They would not do this to black people," he said. "They would not do that to white people. They would not do this to Mexicans, or Italians. They do this to Indian people."
The controversy of sports mascots is, of course, not new. U.S. professional and collegiate sports teams have used Native American logos and names for years. Baseball's Cleveland Indians, for instance, continue to feature a smiling Indian dubbed Chief Wahoo, criticized as a racist caricature.
Sometimes this happens with the blessing of Native American tribes, and other times -- like with the NFL's Washington Redskins, a term that many feel advances a demeaning stereotype -- they have denounced as effectively racial slurs.
The NCAA imposes a ban on offensive Native American mascots and earlier this year, voters dumped the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux mascot. Florida State University's use of Seminole imagery is allowed because it is supported by the the state's Seminole Tribe.
Also this year, Oregon prohibited public schools from the use of Native American names, symbols or images as mascots. The names on the banned list include: Redskins, Savages, Indians, Indianettes, Chiefs and Braves.
Gover said a lot of people think it's OK to use Native American imagery. That was evident on the comments posed on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's blog post about the Braves design:
User Dedoh wrote: "I love the old Braves uniforms. I could care less that someone is offended over the new logo. Too many people are offended by insignificant things that have no bearing on their daily life. The offended can watch another less offensive team. Go BRAVES!!!!!!!"
Slick Rick wrote: "
This isn't bad ... but 'Redskins' is. That name should go away forever."
Other fans weighed in on an online forum on MLB.com, baseball's official website.
"How can you not love this?" wrote one commenter, with the moniker NELSKOF.
But one person, writing with the name Shag23, questioned whether the change was worth it.
"This new hat will draw a lot of attention, just maybe the wrong type," the commenter wrote.
But Gover said such imagery leads kids to grow up thinking that all Native Americans look menacing or do the tomahawk chop, the customary "rally" routine of Braves fans.
"It's nice that they named a team after us but we don't behave like that," he said. "It's hard to see what honor there is in using that imagery."
CNN's Tristan Smith and David Close contributed to this report.