The End for Chief Wahoo / by Carl Fonticella

Chief Wahoo, the controversial logo for the Cleveland Indians, has just one season left. In a report from the New York Times today, the Indians will stop wearing it on their uniforms or caps after the 2018 season.

The professional baseball team in Cleveland was originally named the Cleveland Naps. After the 1914 season, the name was changed to the Cleveland Indians to honor Louis Sockalexis, a member of the Penobscot Tribal Nation who played for Cleveland from 1897-1899. However, the accuracy has been questioned, with author and historian Ellen J. Staurowsky arguing in 1998 that the name change was done more so for exploitative reasons.

Chief Wahoo first appeared on Cleveland uniforms in 1948, which coincides with the last title in franchise history. Throughout the years, Wahoo has seen some changes made to him that differ from the original cartoon drawn by 17-year-old Walter Goldbach. The skin color has changed, the nose has been made smaller, but nonetheless, the logo still shows someone with red skin, a feather in his cap and teeth whose size have been grossly over exaggerated.

Before Wahoo was introduced however, a caricature was already in use in the Cleveland Plain Dealer beginning in 1932 and the “Little Indian,” as he came to be known, ran in the paper for thirty years when accompanying stories about the team.

Since the beginning of the decade, the usage of Wahoo slowly decreased. In 2014, then-team president Mark Shapiro introduced the block C as the primary insignia, and Shapiro has even said Wahoo made him “uncomfortable.” When Cleveland made it to the postseason in 2016, the amount of pressure directed at the Indians’ front office skyrocketed. Native American activist Douglas Cardinal went to Canadian courts to prevent Cleveland from wearing uniforms with Chief Wahoo on them, but the injunction was denied.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, along with Indians owner Paul Dolan, released a joint statement explaining that the removal of Chief Wahoo is one that followed discussions between the team and the MLB itself.

In the statement, Dolan said: “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.”

 

This story originally appeared on thepostathens.com on January 29, 2018.