Chief Wahoo Protester, Robert Roche, Faces Federal Theft Charges

Courtesy clevelandfrowns.com / A Cleveland Indians fan confronts Robert Roche, right, Chiricahua Apache, outside Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2014.

Roche, 70, allegedly stole money from grants meant to help the Native community, according to reports.

Robert Roche, a leading voice in the fight against the Cleveland Indians’ name and controversial mascot, Chief Wahoo, is accused of conspiracy to steal federal funds intended to help Natives, the Associated Press reported.

Roche, 70, notably seen in a photo made viral after a fan of the team in red face and headdress debated him outside Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, was indicted by the U.S. attorney’s office for allegedly embezzling $180,000 from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grants while executive director of the American Indian Education Center in Cleveland.

Roche pocketed $77,000 from the grants, prosecutors said, the AP reported.

Meanwhile, the team is feeling pressure from the national discussion, and Major League Baseball, concerning caricatures of Natives.

Team owner Paul Dolan said the league and the team are “not exactly aligned on its future,” he toldWAKR-AM. “But we will come to some understanding sometime relatively soon, meaning before the start of the 2018 season and maybe sooner than that.”

Natives and allies claim the Chief Wahoo mascot is offensive and continues to perpetuate the dehumanization of Natives.

Culture Editor Simon Moya-Smith contributed to this report.

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