The Cleveland Indians will remove the logo that many Native Americans find racist from its baseball caps and jerseys starting in the 2019 season, Major League Baseball announced Monday.
In a statement, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he told team owner Paul Dolan that it was time to mothball the cartoonish caricature that has appeared on Indians’ uniforms since 1948.
“Over the past year, we encouraged dialogue with the Indians organization about the club's use of the Chief Wahoo logo,” Manfred said. “During our constructive conversations, Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a longstanding attachment to the logo and its place in the history of the team.
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"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."
Dolan echoed Manfred in a statement posted on TribeVibe.
“We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion,” said Dolan. “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.”
There are no plans to change the name of the team, according to the MLB web site. And in place of the chief, Indians ballplayers will wear block "C" insignia on their caps and uniforms.
But the team will continue to sell Chief Wahoo merchandise, the web site reported. And fans will not be prohibited from wearing clothing with the grinning Indian to games.
The move comes after years of home opener protests outside Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland by angry Native Americans and their supporters. Those protests were often met by jeers from those Indians fans who cherish the Chief Wahoo logo.
“The decision by the Cleveland Indians to retire Chief Wahoo from team uniforms is wonderful news for the city," Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said in a statement. "I applaud the team’s decision to show the city, nation and world that Cleveland is an inclusive place that values all diversity.”
Heather Miller, executive director of the American Indian Center in Chicago, said the removal of logo "was a long time coming."
"This is amazing news," said Miller, who is a member of the Wyandotte tribe. "I am beyond excited at seeing this happen... I hope other teams follow suit."
The chief was on his way out even before Monday’s announcement. The Indians introduced the "C'' insignia on some of their baseball caps and removed signs with the Wahoo image from the ball field in recent years.
In recent years, many schools and universities have ceased using Native American nicknames. The Washington Redskins, however, have continued to resist demands that the team change its name. And last year the Supreme Court, in a ruling, cleared the way for the Redskins to keep hanging onto their logo.