Indian’s Give Chief Wahoo the Hook, But Team’s Announcement Lacks Integrity

One of many versions of the Chief Wahoo logo, 1946-1950. (Wikimedia Commons)

Buckling to pressure from Major League Baseball (MLB), the Cleveland Indians will stop using the Chief Wahoo mascot on their uniforms and stadium displays starting next year, according to a New York Times report.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred had pushed for the change, the story said. In announcing the decision, Indian’s Chairman and Chief Executive Paul Dolan failed to take a principled stand.

“We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion,” Dolan said in a statement issued by M.L.B. “While we recognize many of our fans have a longstanding attachment to Chief Wahoo, I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.”

Here’s three big problems with the team’s announcement.

The first is the team’s one-year delay in implementing the decision: If the team truly believed the image was offensive, it would have stopped using it right now.

Second is the team’s decision to continue to profit from a racist image: While Chief Wahoo will not appear on team uniforms after this year, fans will still be able to buy Chief Wahoo gear at the stadium souvenir shops and other northern Ohio retail outlets, the story said. (Seems like Dolan trying to thumb his nose at MLB.)

Third is the team’s lack of an apology: Most disappointing in Dolan’s statement is that he attributes the change to Manfred — not Native pressure.  “I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo,” he said. That’s not an apology. That’s not a recognition that this mascot is offensive. It’s one rich white man saying he is willing to yield to a request from another rich white man, not to the deep wishes — and deep pain — of Native American communities.

It’s clear the team is not making a moral decision. That’s tragic.