If you haven’t heard the news, the Cleveland Indians have announced that their infamous Chief Wahoo logo will be removed from their uniforms following the 2018 MLB Season.Good.
I’ve seen a lot of people sharing this news on Facebook and Twitter saying things like “Good. Now change the name” or “A good step in the right direction.”
I have some bad news. This is nothing. It is not news. It’s just more of the same.
Take a walk with me.
A LITERAL year ago…
I wrote a piece called “Walking Away from Wahoo” which dealt with, you guessed it, this exact issue.
In December of 2016, Commissioner Rob Manfred, Jr. and the Cleveland Indians Organization announced that the blue hats with the controversial Chief Wahoo logo worn with the navy blue home alternate jerseys would be phased out for the 2017 season, but would remain in circulation during the season. This meant The Wahoo caps would be still be worn.
The headlines ran with it and soon “The End for Chief Wahoo Is Here” and “Indians Mascot Removed” were all over the place.
All they did was remove the logo from one specific uniform. Not even that. They redid their wardrobe but still kept Chief Wahoo. All they did was remove it from public view.
It was all about the publicity.
MLB’s Groundhog Day
So you don’t have to read the whole thing, I’ve compiled a couple of passages from that piece, just so you can get some idea of the scope we’re talking about
“When the logo was created in 1948, it wasn’t meant to be offensive. However, over time that casual ignorance grew into something offensive. I understand a lot of Cleveland fans saying, “It was never meant to be offensive.” GOOD. I’M GLAD. If it was meant to be offensive and you haven’t changed it, then f**k off. No one was arguing it was meant to be offensive. However, when the team was named “The Indians” we still had minstrel shows in the U.S.
I think is difficult for people to let go of the team they call their own. “I am an Indians fan and have been for many, many years.” It’s a matter of pride, it’s what you grew up with; it’s yours. That’s where I see the pushback coming from in Cleveland, so I want to say this as clearly as possible:
‘The team is not leaving, the logo and name have to change.’
I’m sure the Montreal fans would love to have kept the Montreal Expos if all they had to do was change their name, instead their team left and now plays in Washington under a different name. The Brooklyn Dodgers moved across the country, but still kept their name, does that make them the same team to their loyal Ebbets Field Faithful? No. We’re not asking you to forsake your past, we’re asking you to change your future.
"Actually, it's NOT offensive and I'll tell you why my friend" pic.twitter.com/iSZW6jqtJZ
— Trill Withers (@TylerIAm) October 9, 2015
Cleveland Baseball is not going anywhere, but until it does this will be a stain on the club. During the 2016 World Series many people, very pedestrian in their baseball fandom, picked sides because of Chief Wahoo. “I can’t root for that logo” or “I don’t want those guys to win.” In a time where Cleveland has been the underdog in two big sports championships having a hard reason to root against them seems odd. I wanted the Cavs to beat Golden State because I thought Cleveland had earned it, and I wanted to see Lebron keep his promise to Northeast Ohio. In the World Series, I kept on seeing Chief Wahoo, and I kept thinking, “This isn’t right.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred and Cleveland majority owner Larry Dolan are supposed to meet to discuss a logo and name change. That meeting has not taken place. I hope it does and that it bears some fruit for the future. I think it’s time to retire Chief Wahoo and move forward with something new because frankly, it was the worst part of the 2016 World Series.”
Got all of that? Good. So what makes this latest announcement any different? Nothing. This is the same thing they did before, with the exception that this time, we have a morsel of information that’s pretty awful.
Okay, it’s really awful.
When the New York Times wrote about the announcement they had one section that caught my eye:
“Citing a goal of diversity and inclusion, Manfred said in a statement provided to The New York 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.”
Rob Manfred had to coax Cleveland’s front office that the logo was no longer appropriate.
LET THAT SINK IN FOR A SECOND.
When discussing whether or not your team name and logo are offensive, the Cleveland Indians are staunchly opposed. In their eyes, there’s nothing wrong with Wahoo. It’s not a big deal. Absolutely not.
“Phillip Yenyo, the executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio,“Why wait?” he said. “If you are going to go this far and get rid of it, why not do it now? All they are doing is testing it out, because the name has to go, too. The nickname absolutely has to go. It’s not just the logo.”
Yenyo is correct. Why wait? If we’re making this change and it’s a change for the better, why not just do it now. I still had to type “Indians” into google to find this article and that’s a problem.
The other thing that Yenyo is spot on about? The Indians are testing this out. After the phase-out, the Indians are still going to be selling Chief Wahoo merchandise in their team stores at Progressive Field.
There is no shred of anything in this announcement except that the Indians should have removed the logo a long time ago, and they are still refusing to do so. It’s Dan Snyder being reluctant to change the Redskins name and logo. This the same situation. Why is this different?
Because this change seems bigger than it actually is.
This Move is Nothing
The Indians will remain the Indians for the foreseeable future, and they won’t hang onto their “C” logo for much longer as it has very little brand recognition, which means we’re going to be in for another logo change before a name change, so that’s another 5 years you can add onto this whole timeline. You can also add another 2 to 3 years that the organization will still be selling the Chief Wahoo merchandise, marketing them as throwbacks, adding to the time the logo stays in circulation. We saw this with the Washington Redskins and their attempt to use a cursive “R”. It never stuck.
The Indians are not distancing themselves from Chief Wahoo, they never have. Instead, this is a move to protect their beloved Chief. That’s what this move is. Get the publicity, make it appear you’re on the right side of the issue, do nothing. That’s what this announcement is. More of the same inactivity from owners with offensive logos.
Don’t celebrate PR misdirection. Demand actual change.
- / 10 months ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.