The New York Times reports that the Cleveland Indians will cease using the Chief Wahoo logo on their uniforms beginning in 2019. That is according to Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, who said in a statement to the Times that the Indians 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.”
The report says that fans will still be able to purchase items with the logo on them at the team’s souvenir shops in the stadium and at retail outlets in the northern Ohio market, but merchandise depicting Wahoo will not be available for purchase via MLB.com. Likewise there will be no signage or banners depicting Wahoo in Progressive Field itself.
The Indians have been under pressure by Major League Baseball in recent years to curtail the use of Chief Wahoo, with Manfred himself saying last year that he wanted to be rid of it. The club and its park have been picketed and protested by Native American groups on the matter for decades. While a vocal portion of the fan base has and likely will continue to resist calls to get rid of Wahoo on the basis of team pride and tradition, the league joining the logo’s critics made it only a matter of time before the logo would be eliminated.
And soon it will be. Good riddance, we say. For reasons that have long been obvious. Whatever goodwill fans have toward Wahoo as a symbol of their favorite baseball team, one can not escape its similarity, in both its appearance and in its historical origin, to blackface “Sambo” characters and other racist imagery that has long since been banished from polite society. That it persisted in baseball when any similar character has been eliminated in all other aspects of commercial and entertainment imagery is a matter of inertia and stubbornness, not reason. Today that inertia has finally been halted.
Here is Major League Baseball’s full statement on the matter:
“Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game,” said Commissioner Manfred. “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, 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.”
“We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion,” said Cleveland Indians owner Paul Dolan. “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.”