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The Indians and MLB will still profit off Chief Wahoo

Cleveland and MLB removing Chief Wahoo seems like a big deal, but this is mostly PR.

Divisional Round - New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians - Game Five Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Cleveland Indians are finally removing Chief Wahoo from their uniforms and stadium, beginning in 2019. This is good! Overdue, but good.

The thing is, though, Cleveland isn’t doing this because it’s right — the logo is racist, you are being willfully ignorant on the matter if you dispute it — and the team also isn’t even fully removing Wahoo from the organization.

In fact, Cleveland is still set to profit off Wahoo not just in 2018 while the team is still wearing and utilizing the logo, but also even when the logo has been removed. That’s because Cleveland can still sell merchandise featuring Wahoo — it just won’t be available on the larger shop.

The excuse is that, due to trademark laws, Cleveland needs to continue to manufacture and sell merchandise with Wahoo on it to avoid having others with the means to produce their own merch from doing the same. An excuse is all that is, however: Cleveland just wants to make sure that if someone is going to profit off racism, it’s going to be the organization.

This isn’t just an opinion, either: ESPN’s Sarah Spain reported that, according to a trademark lawyer, because Wahoo is such a known and popular entity that “they only have to show ongoing use every few years, not even specifically putting things on sale.” Cleveland could just make some items with Wahoo on them and never sell them, and it would still maintain the trademark and keep randos from profiting off the old logo.

It’s worth pointing out, too, that the only reason Cleveland agreed to remove Wahoo was to get the All-Star Game in Cleveland in 2019. Considering it’s still going to be allowed to use and profit off Wahoo in 2018 even though MLB is outright saying it’s not an appropriate logo and the two sides are in agreement on removing it, that’s not difficult to believe.

Don’t give MLB too much credit, though: It’ll benefit from Cleveland continuing to sell Wahoo merch, too. Merchandise sales across MLB go into the central fund for revenue-sharing. So MLB announcing Wahoo is being removed from the uniform in a year, if anything, is going to make the rest of the teams more money than usual: There will be a rush to buy, buy, buy all the Wahoo merchandise fans in favor of the logo can get while it’s still widely available. And a year from now when it’s harder to find, the league will still be profiting off whomever does spend for it.

MLB gets to look progressive, Cleveland gets to make its fans uncomfortable with the logo happier about their support of the team, and both entities will continue to make money off racism as if nothing ever changed.