Posted on January 19, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The 2018 season will mark the end of an era for the Cleveland Indians. It will be the final season the Indians use the controversial Chief Wahoo logo on their uniform. Major League Baseball and the Indians announced Monday they will stop using the logo starting with the 2019 season.
The controversial caricature depicting a Native American has been used in some form since 1947. However, the logo has become a point of controversy in recent years. Commissioner Rob Manfred has put pressure on the team to reconsider the use of the logo. Beginning in 2014, the Indians started to utilize different logos on their jerseys, most notably a Block C, while making Chief Wahoo less prominent. The club is finally ready to do away with the logo once and for all.
“Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game,” Manfred said in a statement. “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 and CEO) 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.
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“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 acknowledgment that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course.”
Native Americans have frequently protested the logo outside Progressive Field, claiming Chief Wahoo is a racist depiction of Native Americans. Attention on the logo started to heat up while the Indians were making their run to the World Series in 2016. There was even a lawsuit filed in Toronto during the ALCS that tried to prevent the logo from being shown on television in Canada. However, longtime fans of the team have resisted talk of changing the logo because of their attachment to it and the organization.
“We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion,” says Dolan. “While we recognize many of our fans have a long-standing attachment to Chief Wahoo, I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.”
The Indians want to make it clear that Manfred and Major League Baseball did not force them to discontinue using the Chief Wahoo logo. There was some speculation that doing away with the logo was a condition of Cleveland hosting the MLB All-Star Game in 2019. The Indians have already been awarded the right to host the game. It is merely a coincidence that 2019 will be the first year they don’t use the Chief Wahoo logo in any capacity.
However, while the Indians won’t wear the logo on their jerseys after this season, the Chief Wahoo logo will continue to be on retail items sold in northeast Ohio. The Indians and Major League Baseball must make it available on merchandise in order to maintain trademark rights on the logo. That will enable fans of the logo to continue to wear it on Indians apparel. But the days of the Indians wearing the Chief Wahoo logo anywhere on their jersey will be over at the conclusion of the 2018 season.