The Oberlin Review

Chief Wahoo Logo Overhaul Long Overdue, Despite Fan Disappointment

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MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Jan. 29 that Cleveland baseball will stop sporting the Chief Wahoo logo on uniforms after the 2018 season. The cartoon caricature, first featured on players’ caps and jersey sleeves in 1948, has sparked controversy since the 1970s.

The statement, which read, “the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball,” appeared to have split baseball fans and others into two categories: “racists” bummed by the news and “soft liberals” offended by the fact that the logo ever existed in the first place.

Neither side is more correct than the other, and being able to understand and appreciate both sides of an argument is a skill that most of us need to learn. Tribe diehards — disappointed in the decision agreed upon by Manfred and club owner Paul Dolan — are not insensitive toward Native Americans and their culture. To refer to them as such is simplistic. On the other hand, baseball — although difficult for me to admit — is just a game. Fans have no right to tell a group of people what should or should not insult them, especially when most of these fans have never been demeaned or oppressed because of the color of their skin or the nationality they were born into.

Surely as a lifelong Cleveland resident I am a bit biased, but I believe Clevelanders make up one of the most passionate and proud fan bases in the country. I saw firsthand what it meant to Clevelanders when hometown hero LeBron James ended the 52-year-long sports curse that had branded our city the “Mistake on the Lake” and the “Factory of Sadness.” I see it every Sunday in the fall as ardent members of the Dawg Pound paint their faces orange and brown and cheer on a team that has not won in 17 contests. We take pride in who we are and the history that brought us here.

Many Tribe fans do not view Chief Wahoo as racist, despite his buck teeth and oversized nose, because light was never shed on how derogatory the logo truly is. Truthfully, I only recently realized how necessary it is to replace it.

I was eight years old when my parents, both Lorain County natives, bought me my first baseball cap. It was navy blue with a Chief Wahoo patch on the front. I grew up idolizing ’90s Tribe legends Omar Vizquel and Roberto Alomar, and throughout their years of beautifully turned double plays, Chief Wahoo appeared on the team’s uniforms more frequently than the C for Cleveland or I for Indians. My childhood heartthrob was the promising Grady Sizemore — the stud leadoff hitter and centerfielder for the club from 2004–11. When people you respect and admire support or do something, naturally you tend to think it’s not only okay but right, even if it is not.

While saying farewell to Chief Wahoo does pull at my heartstrings a little bit, I understand that this is a change that is long overdue. Cleveland has been known to have a very classy ball club that does things the right way, especially now under the leadership of Terry Francona, one of the most well-respected managers in professional baseball. Cleveland fans need to look at the bigger picture and accept the change gracefully.

Bravo to Manfred and Cleveland’s ownership for agreeing to remove the logo from uniforms. Times are changing, and I’m proud that my team is pioneering a movement that may result in changes to other organizations, like the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Redskins.

For those who have been offended by the organization’s logo or are angered by Tribe fans sad to see it go, please forgive us for our passion for our home team’s history. Cleveland fans, let’s be honest with ourselves. All we want is to win the World Series. Who cares what our logo is as long as we get to flood the streets of Cleveland and show the world why “Cleveland Rocks” — like we did in 2016 for the Cavaliers.

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