Indians logo removed, controversial ending to tradition


Photo: Gabe Berlean

The removal of the Chief Wahoo logo for the Cleveland Indians has spurred a debate over what is discriminating and offensives, and what is merely tradition in sports.

By Gabe Berlean, Sports Editor

Chief Wahoo, the grinning mascot of the Cleveland Indians is being removed from jerseys, caps and gear for the 2019 season. The silence of Wahoo has brought fans together, causing controversy and disdain over this decision.

Chief Wahoo has been used in many expressions since 1947. The original logo was a red-skinned Native American character grinning, with a head much bigger than his body, while in his batting stance. The character had a feather sticking out from behind his black hair. The logo was later changed to a lighter red color for the skin.

Through the use of merchandising and advertising, the mascot has brought fans together to root for their team for years. Fans of the Indians are connected to the logo which may push them away after this decision. The Major League Commissioner, Rob Manfred is taking steps of “building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game.”

The controversy started when the Indians made the World Series in 2016 and Manfred wanted the logo to be removed because of it being such a discriminating topic. The removal was for Native Americans who saw the logo as an offensive symbol. The removal was introduced so that no one felt disrespected or discriminated by its use. The Toronto Blue Jays, a major league baseball team then filed a lawsuit against the team saying they wanted the logo and team to be banned on Canadian television.

Major League Baseball said that the logo was “no longer appropriate for use on the field.” The League has tried listening and understanding both sides of the movement by either removing the logo or doing something to change the way people were protesting. They avoided this issue for long enough and needed to resolve the problem. Throughout the controversy, the league has realized that they’re part of the small group of organizations that still have racial or discriminating logos and nicknames used as representation of their teams. 

Owner of the Cleveland Indians, Paul Dolan agreed with removing the logo when asked. Commissioner Manfred approached Dolan to deal with the situation and finally get the discriminating logo out of the league.

Native Americans and their supporters protested outside of the stadium every opening day, hoping to abolish the logo and nickname of the team. They see the nickname offensive to their race specifically. Even though this logo is seen as racist, many fans disagree with this idea and see it merely as tradition for their team. 

A few years ago, GV Art & Design in Lakewood printed shirts in response to removing the logo saying “Keep the Chief.” The owner of the company, Greg Vlosich said, “ They had something that was recognizable and everyone recognized it.”

The Washington Redskins, a football team in the National Football League, has also had issues with their mascot. Last year, a Supreme Court ruling in another case cleared a way for the Redskins to maintain their name and logo.

The Indians team will still be selling the merchandise with Wahoo’s logo on it to keep tradition going. The logo will be removed from anything the players where on the field. The organization feels that keeping it on the field gives the perception that the league accepts discrimination. 

Fairmont aide and baseball coach, David Steele, is a fan of the Indians. His opinion is on the side of removing the discriminating logo. Although the team has had a tradition of the Chief Wahoo logo, Steele agrees with getting rid of “all racial slurred team names and logos,” at this time. 

“They’re still the Cleveland Indians, they just did what they were asked which is better in today’s society,” Steele said.

Although the logo is being removed in some regard, fans can and still wear their Chief Wahoo gear proudly. 

“The Indians are still going to contend for a world series next year, still going to win games. The fans aren’t going to leave just because of the logo,” Steele said.