The Cleveland Indians will stop using their Chief Wahoo logo on game jerseys and caps starting in 2019, according to The Associated Press.
The decision has the support of the MLB, which has urged the team to decrease its use of the logo in recent years. Notably, the logo won’t be going away entirely. The ban extends only to on-field displays, meaning Chief Wahoo will still be a fixture on merchandise that’s available throughout northern Ohio.
“Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game,” MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred Jr. said in a statement Monday.
“Over the past year, we encouraged dialogue with the Indian’s organization about the Club’s use of the Chief Wahoo logo. During our constructive conversations, [team owner] Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a longstanding attachment to the logo and its place in the history of the team,” Manfred continued. “Nonetheless, the club ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use … and I appreciate Mr. Dona’s acknowledgement that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course.”
Manfred acknowledged the logo’s deeply problematic nature in April 2017, when the league awarded the 2019 All-Star Game to the Indians, and in related meetings pressured the team to “transition away from the Chief Wahoo logo,” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said.
At the time, Bob DiBiasio, the Indians’ senior vice president of public affairs, indicated the team would be receptive to a future change.
“We certainly understand the sensitivities of the logo ― those who find it insensitive and also those fans who have a long-standing attachment to its place in the history of the team,” he said in a statement.
“We fully expect to work with the Commissioner throughout the remainder of this season on finding a solution that is good for the game and our organization.”
The long-simmering issue escalated in the fall of 2016 during the American League Championship Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Indians, when an indigenous Canadian filed suit, seeking to prevent the logo from being used during games in Ontario.
Native Americans do not deserve to be denigrated as cartoon mascots.
Change the Mascot campaign
The Change the Mascot campaign, a group that has long opposed the offensive logo, welcomed the Indians’ decision as a recognition “that Native Americans do not deserve to be denigrated as cartoon mascots.”
The group used the news to once again revive calls for the Washington football team to take similar action.
“For too long, people of color have been stereotyped with these kinds of hurtful symbols ― and no symbol is more hurtful than the football team in the nation’s capital using a dictionary-defined racial slur as its team name,” Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, the group’s leader, said in an emailed statement.
“Cleveland’s decision should finally compel the Washington football team to make the same honorable decision,” Halbritter continued. “Washington Owner Dan Snyder needs to look at Cleveland’s move and then look in the mirror and ask whether he wants to be forever known as the most famous purveyor of bigotry in modern sports, or if he wants to finally stand on the right side of history and change his team’s name.
“We hope he chooses the latter.”
The NFL team didn’t respond to a request for comment.
This story has been updated with statements from Manfred and the Change the Mascot campaign.