Wed, Jan 31, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Indians to remove Chief Wahoo from jerseys, caps


A smiling reminder of lazy summer days. An ugly depiction of racism.

Beloved by some, reviled by others.

Chief Wahoo — the grinning, wide-eyed, feather-wearing logo that has divided baseball fans and even families in Cleveland — is being tossed from the game.

The MLB on Monday announced that starting in the 2019 season, the Indians would no longer have the polarizing Wahoo logo — used by the club since 1947 — on their jerseys or caps.

Following discussions over the past year between MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and team owner Paul Dolan, the sides agreed that the caricature is “no longer appropriate for on-field use.”

It is being applauded as a significant step by some Native American groups, who hope the move pushes other franchises, like the NFL’s Washington Redskins, to abolish logos or change nicknames deemed offensive.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” American Indian Movement of Ohio executive director Philip Yenyo said.

While Yenyo was elated when informed of Wahoo’s diminishing status, he also expressed deep disappointment that the Indians would continue to wear the logo during the upcoming season and sell merchandise featuring the emblem.

“I don’t understand why they’re drawing this out,” Yenyo said. “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.”

It might be more complicated than that in Cleveland.

Although the club would not acknowledge it publicly, there were financial reasons to consider in banning Wahoo.

The team will still profit from its use by selling caps, T-shirts and others products featuring Wahoo in the Cleveland area.

By maintaining the trademark, the Indians will keep control of the logo and its usage. If they surrendered the trademark, another party could use Wahoo anyway it wished.

Manfred said the impetus to remove Wahoo came from MLB’s commitment to “building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game.”

He has been urging the Indians to drop the logo since 2016, when Cleveland made their first World Series in 19 years and the national spotlight further illuminated an already touchy subject.

Although MLB and the Indians claim that Cleveland being awarded next year’s All-Star Game did not play into the decision, it is clear that Manfred, who has been exerting more pressure on Dolan to dump Wahoo, did not want another big event tainted by the contentious logo’s presence.

It was time for it to go.

“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,” Dolan said.

The Indians could consider an alternative logo, but they have no plans to change their nickname.

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