Cleveland Indians plan to drop the controversial Chief Wahoo logo

Cleveland Indians plan to drop the controversial Chief Wahoo logo
Many longtime fans of the team have a special attachment to Chief Wahoo. Photo by Arturo Pardavila III via Wikimedia Commons

The Cleveland Indians US baseball team has announced that they are doing away with the controversial Chief Wahoo logo from their uniforms in 2019. The move is in response to decades of negative feedback regarding the red-faced and grinning Native American caricature that has been used by the team since 1947.

This announcement has come after a long discussion between Indians team owner Paul Dolan and the baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. It was agreed that the controversial logo will be taken off team uniforms at the start of the 2019 season.

Manfred said that MLB (Major League Baseball) was “committed to building a culture of diversity”. He went on to say that the logo was not “appropriate” for continued use on the field.

This decision is not likely to end complaints from aggrieved Native American organisations and their supporters who have declared the logo to be racist. This move, seen somewhat as a half-measure, will take a year to come into effect and won’t be applied to merchandise sold in the Cleveland area.

Executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio, Philip Yenyo, said he was “elated” by the news but said that he thought the change should happen sooner. Yenyo said he did not understand why the team was “drawing this out” and that over 2018 they would continue to generate “blood money” from the logo’s use.

Yenyo said that the team needed to “make the leap” and go further to meet demands that the teams name be entirely changed. He said that unless the “Indians” name was dropped, many fans would continue to attend events dressed as Native Americans.

Many who agree with Yenyo see the use of Native American culture in merchandise and promotion as culturally insensitive and representative of a white American theft of their cultural identity. The Washington Redskins, an American football team, has faced harsh criticism for the same reasons.

Despite the new move, the team had already been distancing itself from the Chief Wahoo logo over recent years. It was slowly replaced with a “C” on some caps and jerseys as well as the Chief Wahoo logo being removed from the team’s home ballpark.

Dolan said of the announcement that while he understood many fans had a “longstanding attachment to Chief Wahoo” it was ultimately better to remove him. The team will continue to sell merchandise with Chief Wahoo as they will lose rights to the trademark if they stop.

Social media blew up in reaction to the news with commenters taking different sides of the issue. The issue has been an ongoing undercurrent in the landscape of Cleveland sports culture.

Each year, Native American advocacy groups have held protests outside the team stadium demanding that Chief Wahoo be removed and the team name changed. While this move is not ideal for many critics it signals the beginning of a progressive change for the team.