According to a New York Times report, the Indians’ Chief Wahoo logo will be completely phased out of use by the time the 2019 season starts. Under pressure from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred the team will end the use of the controversial logo, which is a racist representation of Native Americans that has been under fire for years now.
While it is not currently the team’s primary logo, it is still used in various ways on the field and off of it. In a statement to the Times, Manfred said that the Indians’ executive chairman and chief executive Paul Dolan and the entire team organization,
“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 acknowledgment that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course.”
In his own statement issued via the league, Dolan said of the change,
“We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion. 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.”
The Times report specifically notes that this pressure from the league and Office of the Commissioner to end the use of the Chief Wahoo logo did not include any discussions or pressure about the team name, which is admittedly a more difficult and extensive switch, but is also a contentious topic.
Even though this announcement has been a long time coming and is a welcome decision (Manfred first started putting the pressure on last April), it’s also not a perfect solution. In fact, there are a few details in the Times report that are actively disappointing.
The team claims that, in order to keep people outside of the team or the league from using the logo, they will hold on to the trademark and simply not use the logo on the field. Which is good and makes sense!
However, by keeping the trademark they will also “still will be able to profit off sales of merchandise bearing the logo at the stadium and in the Cleveland area” and fans will still be able to buy Chief Wahoo merchandise at team stores and at various retail outlets.
Which is ... bad and detracts from what should be an overall positive announcement for the Indians. Stop sabotaging your own positive PR with easily avoidable yet TERRIBLE decisions, professional sports teams. This shouldn’t be hard.
Simply not selling Chief Wahoo merchandise through official MLB channels but allowing it by the team and local retailers is a shady workaround that makes the team look opportunistic and not at all sincere about this choice. Which they may very well be, but it wouldn’t be hard for them to at least hide that side of this effort in the hopes that people are actually happy with their decision here. (There are other details that also indicate this might not have been the most altruistic decision by Cleveland.)
One reason that sales of Chief Wahoo gear may still be required, at least on some level, is that holding on to the trademark requires the team to continue to “claim its protections” which means they have to keep using it in commerce. Which, honestly, they could do by selling a single keychain in the souvenir shop to legally protect the trademark instead of allowing a wide variety of merchandise to be sold with a clearly racist logo on it.
But the end of on-the-field use of anything related to Chief Wahoo is at least a major step towards eradicating a racist and insensitive logo from the team’s arsenal. There’s still more work to be done, but by 2019 the team will have taken a major step in fixing the Chief Wahoo problem.
Plus, this is true:
oh see that’s really cool, because that allows for an entire year of wearing uniforms that they admit are racist https://t.co/yMuo4a2hm5— Jon Bois (@jon_bois) January 29, 2018
Everyone have fun reminding the Indians that they’re wearing a logo they just admitted is racist whenever they put it on this season!