The Cleveland Indians on Monday agreed to bench Chief Wahoo — but not until the start of the 2019 season.
Major League Baseball announced that the Indians will stop wearing the smiling, red-face Indian logo on its uniforms and caps after the 2018 season.
Some see the Chief Wahoo logo as racist. Others see it as a beloved symbol of one of baseball’s oldest franchises. Chief Wahoo has been used in some form by the club since 1947.
The Indians are hosting the All-Star Game in 2019. The issue was raised nationally during the franchise’s World Series appearance in 2016. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has been pushing for the removal of the logo in conversations with Indians owner Paul Dolan.
“We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion,” Dolan said in a statement released by MLB. “While we recognize many of our fans have a longstanding attachment to Chief Wahoo, I’m ultimately in agreement with commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.”
Said Manfred: “Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game. Over the past year, we encouraged dialogue with the Indians organization about the club’s use of the Chief Wahoo logo. During our constructive conversations, Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a longstanding attachment to the logo and its place in the history of the team. Nonetheless, the club ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball, and I appreciate Mr. Dolan’s acknowledgement that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course.”
“I’m elated,” said Philip Yenyo, executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio. “But at the same time, I think it should be this year. I don’t understand why they’re drawing this out. It doesn’t make any sense to me, unless they want to continue to make what’s basically blood money — Just make the leap already.”
Yenyo and others have demanded that the team go further and drop “Indians” as its name: “If they don’t get rid of the name, then you’re still going to have fans going down there wearing headdresses and painted in redface.”
“It’s a big disappointment,” said Jeremiah Baker at a sporting goods store in suburban Westlake as he picked through a clearance bin of caps with his wife and two children. “Chief Wahoo has been so iconic for so many years, and I understand that some people may be offended, but it’s a blow to native Clevelanders.”
The team will continue to sell Chief Wahoo gear because if it stops doing so, it will lose ownership of the trademark, and others will be able to use the symbol as they please.
Native American groups have been calling for the removal of the Chief Wahoo logo for years. Some also want the team to change its nickname because they feel it is insensitive to Native Americans.
The NFL’s Washington Redskins have faced a similar uproar about their nickname, but owner Dan Snyder has refused to change it despite years of controversy.— With AP