Baseball: Commissioner pressures Cleveland to ditch its controversial logo
CLEVELAND— The Cleveland Indians returned home to Progressive Field on Tuesday for the first time since an agonizing Game 7 defeat to the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. They raised the 2016 American League pennant and handed out rings before the focus turned back to the current season.
It is a season in which the Indians may again be one of the top teams in baseball, but it is also one in which they may have to wrestle increasingly with the issue of Chief Wahoo, the smiling caricature that has long been an Indians logo but has come to be seen as offensive and wildly outdated.
Among those who think it is time for the club to decisively move away from the logo is Major League Base- ball commissioner Rob Manfred, who in continuing discussions with the team’s ownership is beginning to apply a little bit of pressure on the club to come up with a plan of action.
In a statement to the New York Times, Pat Courtney, a spokesperson for Major League Baseball, said Manfred, in his talks with the Indians’ owners, had made clear his “desire to transition away from the Chief Wahoo logo.”
“We have specific steps in an identified process and are making progress,” Courtney added. “We are confident that a positive resolution will be reached that will be good for the game and the club.”
Although Manfred had previously acknowledged a willingness to engage in talks with the team about the logo, Courtney’s statement appears to be the first time that Manfred is identified as having staked out a clear position on the issue.
It is an issue, however, that may not be that easy to resolve. Although many people, including baseball fans around the country, would welcome the removal of Chief Wahoo, there is a significant segment of the Indians’ fan base that still cherishes the logo, which has existed in various forms since 1947.
“Chief Wahoo is the Cleveland Indians,” said Karen Hale, a local Indians fan who was outside the stadium before Tuesday’s game. “I think there comes a time when you have to take a stand for what you believe in. I don’t think it’s hurting anybody.”
Philip Yenyo, executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio, has been protesting at the Indians’ opening day games for years and vehemently disagrees with Hale and others with similar views. He would prefer the team eliminate the Indians name as well, but he would be happy for it to start with the logo.
During this year’s protest, Yenyo engaged in a cordial conversation with a team employee. And Yenyo said that over the years the Indians had been very co-operative in arranging for security to protect the twodozen or so protesters who do show up outside the stadium.
Still, as Yenyo spoke through a megaphone at Tuesday’s demonstration, a man barrelled through the protesters and yelled at him: “It’s a caricature. Get over it.”
At Tuesday’s game, the Chief Wahoo logo could not be seen anywhere on the stadium building or on the field, but it was on the left sleeves of the blue jerseys worn by the Indians players and on their caps.
The logo could also be found on many items in the team souvenir shop, along with stickers depicting an even harsher representation of Chief Wahoo from an earlier period. For now, at least, the logo still survives and even thrives.
Cleveland’s MLB team has used the Chief Wahoo logo in various forms since 1947.