The controversial “Chief Wahoo” logo that has adorned the uniforms of the Cleveland Indians since 1948 will soon be gone from Major League Baseball games. On Monday, the team announced that the logo will be removed from the uniforms worn by players starting in the 2019 season.

Chief Wahoo Cleveland Indians
The Chief Wahoo logo has been downplayed in recent seasons, and the Indians will remove it entirely from on-field uniforms in 2019. (Image: Doug James/Icon SMI/Corbis/Getty)

The logo, a cartoon red face with a massive grin, has long been one of the chief targets of those who question the use of Native American names and imagery in sports. Critics have long decried the mascot as a racist caricature that has long outlived its shelf life.

Logo Deemphasized in Recent Years

Even the Indians themselves had begun using the logo less frequently in recent years. And as one of the more overtly stereotypical Native American images in sports, the decision to remove it from the field entirely has been fairly well-received by the general public. But many fans of the team have a longstanding affection for Chief Wahoo, something team CEO and owner Paul Dolan acknowledged when speaking about the decision.

“You can’t help but be aware of how many of our fans are connected to Chief Wahoo,” Dolan told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “We grew up with it.”

Ultimately, though, Dolan said that the team had to consider the effect that the logo had on Native Americans.

“Some people are impacted by the logo,” he said. “Even if it’s a small minority or more than that, it’s a fact.”

According to Dolan, one of the key considerations was to find a compromise that would allow fans to continue enjoying the logo, while showing that the team understood that it was no longer appropriate for players to wear on the field.

Chief Wahoo Merchandise Will Remain Available

Fans will still be allowed to wear merchandise that bears the logo at games, and there will be no attempt to scrub the caricature from historical photos or depictions of the franchise’s history. In addition, there will be no move towards changing the team name.

One of the more controversial aspects of the decision is the fact that the team will still be selling merchandise with the logo on it, both at the stadium and retail outlets. The Indians say this is necessary in order to protect their merchandising rights and prevent a black market from developing around the logo.

Critics, though, say that this will allow Cleveland to continue profiting off of the Chief Wahoo logo while taking a small step to placate their critics. In addition, some have noted that the timing of the removal coincides with the fact that the Indians will host the 2019 All-Star Game, leading to questions of whether the logo removal was a condition for Cleveland to keep the lucrative exhibition.

As for 2018, fans across the countries might still see a lot of Chief Wahoo, perhaps even deep into the playoffs. After a strong 2017 campaign, the Indians are among the leading picks to win the World Series this year, getting 7/1 odds at Ladbrokes. The Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, and New York Yankees are each co-favorites at 6/1.

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