The Cleveland Indians Decided the Chief Wahoo Logo Is Too Racist to Wear But Fine to Keep Selling

The team will stop using the offensive image on the field in 2019.

Patrick Semansky/AP

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After 70 years of using a racist Native American caricature as its primary logo, baseball’s Cleveland Indians finally have agreed to stop using the Chief Wahoo logo on uniforms and banners throughout Progressive Field, starting in 2019.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred noted in a statement that the logo was “no longer appropriate for on-field use.” “While we recognize many of our fans have a longstanding attachment to Chief Wahoo,” Indians chief executive Paul Dolan told the New York Times, which broke the story, “I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.” 

The team had started to downplay the logo’s prominence in 2014, when it began featuring a big C on caps, but Chief Wahoo remained in circulation. In October 2016, Canadian activist Douglas Cardinal sought a court injunction to prevent the team from featuring the logo in Toronto when the Indians prepared to face off against the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series. A judge denied the move, but last spring, Manfred began to put pressure on team ownership to transition away from putting the logo on uniforms in the wake of the Indians’ 2016 World Series appearance. 

The demise of Chief Wahoo comes months after Washington’s professional football team won a critical legal battle with Native American groups who were trying to fight the team’s trademark of the word “Redskins.” Owner Dan Snyder notoriously has vowed to never change the team’s name. 

But don’t expect the Indians’ horrible logo to disappear immediately, or ever: The team will still maintain the trademark on Chief Wahoo and can sell merchandise bearing the logo at the ballpark’s souvenir stores and shops in Ohio.

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

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