After years of protest from groups that call it a racist caricature of a Native American, the Cleveland Indians are removing the Chief Wahoo logo from the team uniforms starting in 2019.
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, [Indians owner] Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a long-standing 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.
While the logo will be removed from uniforms, the statement says that it will still have “limited retail presence in Northeast Ohio and Goodyear, Arizona,” to ensure the team retains control of the trademark. The team will use the “Block C” for most merchandise moving forward.
Various forms of the offensive logo have been in use for decades. From the statement:
Imagery similar to Chief Wahoo can be traced back to use in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in the 1930s, and the team used different versions of Native American-themed logos throughout its early history. The Chief Wahoo, which evolved over the years, was originally created in 1946 by the late Walter Goldbach, and it did not appear on Cleveland’s uniforms until ’47.
The city is set to host the MLB All-Star Game in 2019, though team leadership says getting rid of the racist logo was not a prerequisite to host the matchup.
National Congress of American Indians—which launched its longstanding campaign to address stereotypes of Native Americans in media, arts and culture in 1968—praised the decision in a statement today from Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, leader of the Change the Mascot campaign:
The Cleveland baseball team has rightly recognized that Native Americans do not deserve to be denigrated as cartoon mascots, and the team’s move is a reflection of a grassroots movement that has pressed sports franchises to respect Native people.
Cleveland’s decision should finally compel the Washington football team to make the same honorable decision. For too long, people of color have been stereotyped with these kinds of hurtful symbols—and no symbol is more hurtful than the football team in the nation’s capital using a dictionary-defined racial slur as its team name. Washington Owner Dan Snyder needs to look at Cleveland’s move and then look in the mirror and ask whether he wants to be forever known as the most famous purveyor of bigotry in modern sports, or if he wants to finally stand on the right side of history and change his team’s name. We hope he chooses the latter.