Beginning in 2019, the Cleveland Indians will no longer use the Chief Wahoo logo on their uniforms.
According to Major League Baseball, the popular symbol – a brand they’ve represented with an indigenous person’s face since 1928 – is no longer appropriate for use on the field.
To many fans and locals, the logo is a source of pride. But to others, the logo represents racism in America and the historical events of the past. This divide between fans and frustrated individuals has been more prominent in recent years among other sports teams with similar logos and names. Some sports teams, mostly colleges and universities, have changed their team brands from representations such as Apaches, Braves, and Indians. Some have been able to resist outside pressure to change their brand, as is the case with the NFL’s Washington Redskins.
The Future of the “Chief Wahoo” Mascot
Chief Wahoo is the current logo and face of the Cleveland Indians. This cartoon figure first made an official appearance on their uniforms in 1948. While many attempts made from North American groups have failed to get the team to change their logo, the MLB’s commissioner Rob Manfred has pushed for a change.
Ultimately, Paul Dolan, Cleveland’s chairman and chief executive, decided that it was time to make a change as “the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball.” As a result, it will be removed from the on-field uniform by the 2019 season.
Interestingly enough, fans will still be able to buy the Chief Wahoo branded gear from team souvenir shops and retail outlet stores in Ohio, although they won’t be sold on the MLB’s website.
Is the Brand Really Changing?
It appears that at least for the time being – no. Not really.
Although it’s “another step in the right direction” as stated by Phillip Yenyo, the executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio, they are putting off the changes for another year. If they keep the nickname but change the logo, the team will continue to get backlash from the opposing communities.
“We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion,” said Dolan in an MLB official statement. “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.”
It doesn’t seem like Dolan plans on changing the franchise brand completely anytime soon, but time will only tell. For some, this is only a small and seemingly insignificant step towards change.
Until then, small groups of protesters will likely still gather in front of Progressive Field before Cleveland’s games. As you can imagine, passionate fans and protesters alike have clashed for years outside the stadium. The stadium and team have long-time coordinated with the local police and protestors to ensure that they have a right to peacefully gather.
Some activists have even gone as far as to try to get the logo and team name banned from use in their area. Douglas Cardinal, for example, during the 2016 postseason pleaded for Canadian court intervention to prevent Cleveland from using Chief Wahoo on their uniforms and from using the franchise name altogether.
Fans have longtime stated that the inspiration behind the Cleveland Indians name is Louis Sockalexis, who was the first Native American and first recognized minority to play baseball in the National League.