Commissioner Rob Manfred is talking with Cleveland Indians ownership about the Chief Wahoo logo. It has been under fire for years. Should the logo be abolished?
The most controversial logo in baseball is under major heat. The Cleveland Indians logo depicting a red-faced Native American named Chief Wahoo has been around since the 1940s in different variations. It has been under scrutiny for decades, but now it seems the push is the hardest its ever been, as MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been in talks with Indians owner Paul Dolan about abolishing the logo.
Through the controversy, the Indians took a small step a few years ago to reduce the visibility of the Chief Wahoo brand. They changed their primary logo to their current block “C”, which graces some of their hats and batting helmets. While that is a step, it has not been enough to make an impact, as the Chief Wahoo logo still appears on some hats and on jersey patches, along with signage all around their ballpark. If the Tribe was serious about their switch, they would do a lot more to do away with the logo.
It’s Not Acceptable Anymore
If Cleveland was serious about making change, they would change the name. Native Americans are not, and never should have been referred to as, Indians. Because of the unfortunate misguided thought that Europeans had landed in India, Native Americas were wrongly labeled as such. Today, with increased awareness of what to call people of other races, the term Indian itself should be done away with. The Cleveland Indians can help the cause by abandoning Chief Wahoo and the Indians name.
While the renaming bit may be a bit of stretch, the phasing out of the logo is not. The color of the skin of Chief Wahoo, along with his appearance, are stereotypical and wrong to Native American people. To not think that over 100 social groups protesting the logo since the 1970s is a red flag is incredible. Not to mention the fans who show up in headdresses and war paint to show support for the team.
Native American culture takes those symbols very seriously and they should not be mocked or used in a way that is demeaning (even if it is not meant to be) or in the incorrect way. Many Native Americans have worked hard to earn and preserve those symbols and that should not be forgotten, even if you have an undying love for the team.
While Fans Are Attached, That Shouldn’t Be a Reason to Keep It
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Yes, Indians fans love Chief Wahoo. It is a symbol of their team and, to most them, it is as harmless as the Boston Red Sox “B”. That may be attributed to the small Native American population in the area. Native Americans only make up 0.2 percent of the Cleveland area. That is not even close to such places with heavy Native American populations such as New York, South Dakota and Arizona. New York itself eliminated a baseball team’s Native American mascot when the Syracuse Chiefs changed their logo from a Native American to an airplane, then later to a locomotive, changing the context of the name “Chief”.
If we as people kept things the same way, we would not advance. Native Americans have not gotten the treatment they deserve when it comes to such advancements. They have casually been overlooked, and it can stop with the Indians logo. There have been instances, though subtle, that point to the need to change it.
Instances When Chief Wahoo Was Not Used
Other signs that point to the need to change the brand are the instances where it was not used, including when the organization itself passed on using it. In 1994, President Bill Clinton threw out the first pitch at Jacobs Field. He donned an Indians cap, but it was embroidered with the block “C”, not Chief Wahoo, which rubbed advocates of the logo the wrong way.
Another instance was during the Civil Rights game played in Memphis in 2007 when the Indians wore uniforms with the logo removed from them. Major League Baseball excluded it again in 2013 during All-Star Fan Fest when they didn’t sell apparel with the Chief Wahoo likeness.
The Indians themselves didn’t use the logo on their Stars and Stripes hats in 2009 after controversy over it being used in 2008. They instead used the block “C”. The controversy came up again in 2013, when New Era released images of the 2013 Stars and Stripes hat with Chief Wahoo on them. It was later dubbed a mistake on New Era’s part. A Cleveland-based publication called The Cleveland Scene went as far as to call it “the most offensive Cleveland Indians hat ever”.
They Can Be the Change
While it is a long-standing symbol of the ball club, Chief Wahoo should be retired. The fact it can be deemed unacceptable during certain times should be a red flag, along with the fact that it ties into the mistreatment of Native American that goes with it. Being politically correct is one thing, but being correct on how people should be depicted is another.
Native Americans are people, just like whites, African Americans, Asians and whoever else you may think of. Just because there are numerous teams named after them doesn’t make it right. If everything was kept the same, we as people would not be where we are today. There needs to be change, and it can start with Chief Wahoo.