By Ken Reed
This will be the last year for Chief Wahoo, the long-time logo/mascot of MLB’s Cleveland Indians.
Beginning in 2019, Cleveland players will no longer wear the logo on their uniforms or hats. And Chief Wahoo won’t be part of the club’s promotional efforts moving forward.
The team’s primary logo in 2019 will be a block “C.” Nevertheless, Cleveland will retain its trademark and retail rights to the Chief Wahoo logo and it’s expected the logo will still appear on some merchandise in the club’s gift shops in 2019 and beyond. However, Major League Baseball (MLB) will not use the logo on merchandise in its stores.
Chief Wahoo — a cartoon Indian caricature with a red face, big nose and toothy smile — has drawn widespread criticism. It’s also been the subject of lawsuits from Native American groups who consider the logo a racially insensitive stereotype. Chief Wahoo currently is the only logo in American professional sports to depict a certain race. “People, Not Mascots” signs have been prevalent at demonstrations protesting the Chief Wahoo logo.
“Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game,” said Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred 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, Paul Dolan made it 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.”
Dolan, Cleveland’s owner, acknowledged that it was a tough decision due to the history and tradition Chief Wahoo has with the franchise. He said a lot of fans have a strong attachment to the logo. But ultimately, he agreed that dropping it was the right thing to do.
“We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion. 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.”
Many baseball fans in general, and Indians fans in particular, have mixed feelings about Cleveland’s decision to drop Chief Wahoo.
That’s understandable. But in the end, it’s the decent thing to do.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
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Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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