The Cleveland Indians announced today that, as of 2019, they will be removing their racist “Chief Wahoo” logo from the team’s jerseys and caps. The cartoon of the grinning man with a bright red face, big nose, teeth like piano keys, and a feather sticking out of his head has been a lightning rod for criticism for years and, according to reports, was the subject of significant discussion between the team owner and the baseball commissioner leading up to the team’s decision.
It probably is no coincidence, either, that the Indians will host baseball’s All-Star game in 2019.
Having been born in Akron, Ohio and going to Indians’ games since I was a little kid, I grew up with Chief Wahoo — but I think it’s well past time to retire him. He’s an offensive caricature, and the fact that he’s been associated with the team for decades doesn’t change or excuse that. The team has increasingly been moving to the block C, which I think is pretty good, and I like the script Indians logo, too.
Native American activists also are advocating for the team to ditch the name Indians. I have more mixed feelings on that issue. I recognize that the name Indians is an historical anachronism, but I think calling an athletic team by that name is a sign of respect — and I also like the nickname The Tribe, which has a pretty cool, inclusive meaning. We’ll have to see whether getting rid of Chief Wahoo relieves the pressure on the team name, or intensifies it.