Home Pro MLB Nightengale: Cleveland Dropping Chief Wahoo, Now Will it Change Nicknames?

Nightengale: Cleveland Dropping Chief Wahoo, Now Will it Change Nicknames?

Nightengale: Cleveland Dropping Chief Wahoo, Now Will it Change Nicknames?
Photo: Glenn Moore, Northeast Ohio Media Group

Ok, while Major League Baseball executives are at it, can they please get Cleveland to dump its baseball team’s nickname, too?

Well, the Indians’ name isn’t going anywhere yet; nonetheless, it was a coup for MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to finally force Cleveland owner Paul Dolan’s hand to shed the racist and offensive logo, Chief Wahoo, from the uniforms in 2019.

It was disgusting to see, whether you were at Progressive Field, or walking along hallways to visitor’s clubhouses in baseball, and see the cartoonish caricature of the smiling Native American that originated in the racist and offensive of times in this country.

Sure, stripping a team logo off its uniform isn’t about to change racism in this country, but at least now we don’t have to be offended every time we see a Cleveland uniform.

Hopefully, this will help put an end to the racist Washington Redskins’ nickname and logo, too, but then again, we’re talking about the NFL, where capitalism triumphs ethics and morals.

MLB proudly announced the historic decision Monday after putting pressure on Dolan and the Cleveland ownership group for years.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the timing of the decision comes just a year before Cleveland hosts the 2019 All-Star Game.

And if the NBA can pull their 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte to protest a state law that eliminated anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, baseball could certainly have done the same in Cleveland.

Dolan denied there was any threats to have the All-Star Game removed if he didn’t strip Chief Wahoo from their uniforms beginning in 2019, but if Manfred didn’t pressure him, we might have been stuck with this caricature for another 75 years.

“Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game,” Manfred said in a statement. “Over the past year, we encouraged dialogue with the Indians organization about the club’s use of the Chief Wahoo logo. During our constructive conversations, Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a long-standing attachment to the logo and its place in the history of the team.

“Nonetheless, the club 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 acknowledgement that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course.’’

Well, the right course would be to have it eliminated immediately. The right course would be that it’s permanently banned from their gift shops. The right course would never to see another Chief Wahoo caricature ever again in their stadium.

This is a compromise, with Dolan and his lawyers arguing that if they didn’t keep ownership or ceased all production of the caricature, they would risk other companies taking ownership of the trademark and making a profit.

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

Dolan insists there are no plans to change the team’s nickname, but hopefully that will occur one day, too, just as high schools and universities throughout the country have changed their nicknames and representations of Native Americans.

Many of the good folks in Ohio, of course, are irate with the decision. Folks responded quickly to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s news story saying, “We’ve been raped of our beloved Wahoo,’ and “Boycott Progressive Field,’’ and “This is the worst case scenario for the Indian protesters. The only reason they were protesting the logo is to get exposure for Indian affair political issues. Without the logo, they will have to find a new venue to jump up and down with fake outrage.’’

The reaction, for the most part, was pathetic. It will dissipate in time. And one day there will be children growing up generations from now asking how it was ever possible for racist and offensive nicknames to be around so long in this country?

Then again, racist beliefs and ignorance have a tradition of long-lasting staying power in this country.

It’s an absolute shame it took Manfred and MLB lawyers to break down Dolan’s resistance to agree to this compromise. Common sense would have told Dolan to cease and desist displaying the Wahoo caricature on their uniforms years ago.

If Dolan didn’t believe the Chief Wahoo caricature was offensive, why did he make sure not to have it prominently displayed outside their spring training headquarters when they moved to Goodyear, Az., in 2009. He even acknowledged at the time that there “was some sensitivity,’’ citing that Arizona has the third-largest Native American population in the country. The protests at Progressive Field prompted him to have the Block C become the primary logo in 2016 while moving the Wahoo icon to the sleeve of their jerseys.

“This is the hardest decision,’’ Dolan told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “we’ve had to make during our entire ownership.’’

Wow, rather disturbing, isn’t it?

It should have been the easiest.

By Bob Nightengale

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today. Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook.


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