Cleveland Indians owner Paul Dolan announced on Friday that the team has demoted Chief Wahoo into a secondary role among the team's logos. "We have gone to the Block C as our primary mark. Clearly, we are using it more heavily than we are the Chief Wahoo logo."
Dolan added that the team is not getting rid of the Chief, saying the controversial icon is "part of our history and legacy," but his comments continue a years-long trend towards deemphasizing Wahoo. Dolan's comments don't include any particulars about what will be different in the team's logo usage this season, but it's the first time I can recall him acknowledging the gradual transition.
As he says, the logo is part of the team's history, having been officially adopted by the team in 1947. For many Tribe fans, the logo is a beloved part of the team's history. The home cap, which still features Chief Wahoo, remains the team's best-seller.
When I think of Chief Wahoo, I have positive associations. I used to sketch him in the margins of my notebook, and my best memories of the team, from collecting cards as a kid to watching them win division title after division title, almost all include his giant grin. For those reasons, I understand why many have a hard time with the idea of him being eliminated from the team's official presentation.
If he'd never existed though, there wouldn't be some hole in my fandom, I wouldn't be thinking, Gosh, I sure wish the team had a red-faced stereotype on their uniforms all these years. That way I could really have enjoyed being a fan. And if I live long enough to root for the Indians another thirty years after they eventually do away with Chief Wahoo, those thirty years will in no way be diminished by his absence. If you're a grown-up and won't be able to bring yourself to care about the team if they don't have that logo, I don't know what to tell you. I guess I'll tell you that you'll still have no trouble wearing stuff with Wahoo, because he'll live on eternally through unlicensed merchandize.
When he's not just demoted, but eliminated, there will be blowback, but if it were my decision to make, I'd rip the band aid off, ride out the criticism, and then get on with my life. The intentions of Bill Veeck in adopting Chief Wahoo, and of others who support the logo are besides the point; the imagery is racist, and Dolan understands that. "We do have empathy for those who take issue with it," he said yesterday. "We have minimized the use of it and we'll continue to do what we think is appropriate."
Eventually, when they believe the calculus is right, they'll think it appropriate to demote Chief Wahoo into the past.