Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Cleveland Indians have announced that the ‘Chief Wahoo’ logo will be removed from the team’s kit, effective with the 2019 season, following decades of protests that the image is racist.
MLB said the decision has been made after “thoughtful and productive discussions” between the league and the Indians. “Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said.
“Over the past year, we encouraged dialogue with the Indians organisation about the club's use of the Chief Wahoo logo. During our constructive conversations, (owner) Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a longstanding 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.”
Various versions of the grinning, red-faced caricature have been in use since 1947, but will now be removed from the team’s shirt sleeves and caps starting with the 2019 season, when Cleveland will host the All-Star Game.
However, the Associated Press news agency noted that the Indians will continue to wear the Wahoo logo in 2018, and even after it is removed from gameday kit, the club will sell merchandise featuring the mascot in the Cleveland area.
Philip Yenyo, executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio, said of the decision: “I’m elated, but at the same time I think it should be this year. I don’t understand why they’re drawing this out. It doesn’t make any sense to me, unless they want to continue to make what’s basically blood money.”
Yenyo is amongst those who have argued that the team should also drop ‘Indians’ from its name. He added: “If they don’t get rid of the name, then you’re still going to have fans going down there wearing headdresses and painted in redface.”
The team has made efforts in recent years to move away from the logo. A ‘C’ has been introduced as the primary logo, while signs depicting Chief Wahoo have been removed from Progressive Field, the team’s ballpark.
Dolan said in a statement: “We have consistently maintained that we are cognisant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion. While we recognise 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.”