Earlier this year Major League Baseball changed its stance on the Indians logo, Chief Wahoo, shifting from a position in which it merely acknowledged that some people find Wahoo offensive to having a clear desire for the Indians to chuck it. In the wake of Rob Manfred and the league voicing its opinion on Wahoo, team owner Paul Dolan acknowledged that Wahoo would likely be gone “within a couple of years.” It was not a decision Dolan said he was pleased about, just one that he felt that was inevitable due to league pressure.
Dolan continues to not be pleased about it, and continues to note that it’s the league, and not the club, moving this. Indeed, he says that the team and the league are in disagreement about it. At the same time, however, he appears to have revealed that the timetable for getting rid of Chief Wahoo has accelerated. From Ohio.com:
Dolan, speaking to 1590 WAKR’s Ray Horner as part of their speaker series at St. George Fellowship Centre in Fairlawn, indicated that the Indians and the commissioner’s office continue to work down the path of finding a “middle ground” regarding the usage of Chief Wahoo.
According to Dolan, they have not yet found it, but it won’t be long.
“We’re not exactly aligned on its future,” Dolan said. “But we will come to some understanding some time relatively soon, meaning before the start of the 2018 season and maybe sooner than that.”
Deadspin and other outlets passed along these comments yesterday, mostly with the angle that the team is resisting MLB’s plans for Wahoo and searching for a “middle ground.” That may be true, but it seems more to me like this is an epic game of good cop, bad cop, with the league willing to be the heavy while the club takes whatever opportunities it can to appear to be fighting it in order to keep from alienating fans. Which may, in fact, be the team’s actual sentiment on the logo. But the key takeaway here, I feel, is that the timetable for moving Wahoo just leaped forward a year, from “a couple of years” just this past spring to “the start of the 2018 season and maybe sooner than that.”
I can’t help but think that this is being orchestrated on some level. If so, it’s pretty deft orchestration, with the club being allowed to remain the good guys and, perhaps, depending on what “middle ground” means, being allowed to continue to sell merch with Wahoo on it to Wahoo-loving fans, with the added sheen of rebellion or underground cred to it.
Which is not the worst thing in the world. Sure, ideally, the team would cease any and all associations with Wahoo. Realistically speaking, however, people were going to continue to wear their old Wahoo stuff once it was eliminated as an official logo and bootleg manufacturers were bound to step in to fill the demand. It was never going to be possible to scrub Wahoo’s existence from the face of the Earth. The key goal is for a racist caricature to no longer be an official mark of a Major League Baseball team. Particularly for it to no longer appear on the team’s uniforms and marketing and promotional materials.
Reading between the lines in Dolan’s comments, that’s happening faster than first expected.