On Monday, Major League Baseball said that the Cleveland Indians will no longer use the Chief Wahoo logo on their uniforms as of 2019. The retirement of a logo that has proved divisive was announced as battles over the use of Native American imagery in sports continue.
The MLB said the decision was made, after years of slowly drawing back official use of the logo, that the Chief Wahoo image “was no longer appropriate for use on the field,” according to the New York Times.
The Times said that the MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred, has pushed for the change for some time:
Chief Wahoo, a cartoonish caricature of a Native American that has assumed several forms over the years, first appeared on the Indians’ uniforms in 1948. In recent decades various groups across North America have appealed to the team to renounce the logo, to no avail. But over the past year the commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred, has pressured Paul Dolan, Cleveland’s chairman and chief executive, to make a change.
Citing a goal of diversity and inclusion, Manfred said in a statement provided to The New York Times that the Indians 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.”
“We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion,” Dolan said in a statement issued Monday. “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.”
While the team will stop using the logo, it will retain its trademark for the image. Some items with the logo will remain available to purchase at souvenir shops and at retail locations, but the logo will not be present on team gear sold on the MLB website.
The decision, while not a complete abandonment of the logo, stands as a victory for Native American communities and their allies, many of whom have often raised objections to the use of the Chief Wahoo logo and similar images by other teams. As NBC News notes, the decision “comes after years of home opener protests outside Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland by Native Americans and their supporters. Those protests were often met by jeers from Indians fans who cherish the Chief Wahoo logo.”
NBC also notes that the logo was already declining in use, with the team previously introducing a “‘C’ insignia on some baseball caps and removing signs with the Wahoo image from the ball field.”