After Years Of Debate, One Pro Baseball Team Is Saying Goodbye To Its Controversial Mascot


For the first time since 1948, the Cleveland Indians will be without its Chief Wahoo logo beginning in 2019, according to Major League Baseball.

The decision comes after years of criticism and pleas from the Native American community and their supporters, who have long insisted the logo — a caricature of a Native American — was offensive and racist. The MLB said the logo was no longer appropriate to be displayed on the field.


In 2016, when Cleveland appeared in the World Series for the first time since 1997, criticism of the name and logo exploded. During a playoff game in Toronto, Douglas Cardinal — an indigenous activist from Canada — used a court injunction to try and stop the team from wearing its logo during the series. The petition was declined by the judge, but members of the American Indian Movement of Ohio noticed the gesture and thanked Cardinal for his effort. 

But the fight has been going on for decades. In 2001, to show just how offensive the logo was, the National Congress of American Indians created a poster that imagined logos for team names such as the New York Jews and the San Francisco Chinamen. At important games for Cleveland, protesters are frequently found outside the stadium objecting to the name and logo.

Rob Manfred, the commissioner of baseball, has been asking Cleveland's Chairman and Chief Executive Paul Dolan to abandon the logo. In a statement he gave to The New York Times, Manfred said the 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."

Reactions to the news have been mixed. Fans will still be able to buy items with the Chief Wahoo logo at the stadium in souvenir shops and at retail outlets, The New York Times reported. But they will no longer be for sale on the MLB's website. 

"Change it all, Indians," Jamil Smith, a columnist from Cleveland, wrote on Twitter. "The name, the logo, all of it. Relinquish your trademarks, and bury one of the most conspicuously racist images in sports. I am glad that I won't have to see a red Sambo on my hometown team's uniforms, but this here is piecemeal."

Others blamed "liberals" and the "PC millennial generation" on Twitter. A popular Cleveland sports fan account said Chief Wahoo was "iconic," and a "symbol of the history and legacy of Cleveland baseball." 

Tom Withers, who covers Cleveland for The Associated Press, solicited a response from Philip Yenyo, the executive director of American Indian Movement of Ohio.

"I'm elated," Yenyo told him. "But at the same time I think it should be done this year. ... It doesn't make any sense to me, unless they want to continue to make what's  basically blood money."

In all likelihood, the news will put renewed pressure on other teams bearing names that reference Native Americans. Most notably, the Washington Redskins have been resisting requests from the Native American community and other activists to stop using its name, which is literally defined by Merriam-Webster as "offensive." In 2014, even The Washington Post editorial board stopped using the word Redskins and began referencing "the Washington football team." Nevertheless, Washington owner Dan Snyder has repeatedly refused to change the name or the logo.

"We'll never change the name," Snyder infamously told reporters in 2013. "It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."

While Snyder and the Washington organization might dig their heels in, for now, activists fighting the Native American logos and names have good reason to celebrate. And they're using some caps of their own. 

"FINALLY!!!" Dr. Adrienne Keene, the writer behind Native Appropriations, wrote on Twitter. "Not done fighting, but BIG step ... I'm also glad they finally acknowledged the image is inappropriate rather than just slowly phasing it out."


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