The Cleveland Indians are World Series losers, and when they report back to their home field on April 3, it should be without their racist logo, once and for all.
The Indians wore their second alternate uniforms all postseason long—15 games across three series without ever switching up their gear. Home or away, the day after a win or the day after a loss, the Indians trotted out their racist logo for the world to see.
We’re past the point of arguing the various virtues of keeping the logo in the franchise’s back pocket for the sake of nostalgia. It doesn’t matter what origin story you’ve heard about the logo, or that Cleveland baseball is something you shared with your dad. It doesn’t matter that it’s their second alternate logo, or that postseason merchandise has featured the block C instead. It doesn’t matter if the team means no offense by it, or if fans only show up in redface and headdresses for postseason games. It doesn’t matter if you know a Native American who says they don’t care about the logo, or if the old version of the logo used to be worse.
Cleveland fans can kick and scream and shit their pants all they want over what the logo means to them and twist themselves into knots to justify what’s plainly racist. It’s gotta go, and the franchise should do it in the wake of its World Series loss.
Discontinuing use of the logo won’t stop fans from wearing the Wahoo merch they own or attending games in stereotypical garb, but those are the choices of individuals, rather than the choice of a major league franchise.
Major League Baseball is clearly sick of this shit. Commissioner Rob Manfred has tried to take the “gotta hear both sides” approach to the issue during the World Series:
I know that that particular logo is offensive to some people, and all of us at Major League Baseball understand why. Logos are, however, primarily a local matter. The local club makes decisions about its logos. Fans get attached to logos. They become part of a team’s history. So it’s not easy as coming to the conclusion and realizing that the logo is offensive to some segment.
It’s clear, though, that Manfred was frustrated to have to spend his showpony World Series talking about Wahoo:
You know, I’ve said what I want to say about Chief Wahoo. Obviously when a team is in the World Series, there is a spotlight on that team. Everything about that team attracts more attention, and I think that’s probably the case with respect to the logo issue.
Manfred will meet with team owner Paul Dolan in the offseason to “discuss” what to do about the logo going forward. Major League Baseball is habitually deferential to its clubs, and yet if Manfred is publicly announcing a meeting with a team owner over concerns about a longtime franchise logo, you can bet he’s not going in without something to say and evidence to back it up. He is a lawyer, after all.
The Indians have included in fan surveys this year—and a few years in the past—questions for season ticket holders and fans who have bought a lot of tickets over the season about their feelings on each of the logos. The questions about the logo were buried at the end of a lengthy survey, and are clearly tilted toward gauging fan opinion on Wahoo:
- The logo makes me proud of the Indians
- The logo reflects the heritage of the Indians
- The logo is an important part of my support for the Indians
- I feel a strong, positive, emotional connection to this logo
- This logo represents more than the team - it represents the city of Cleveland
Pride and heritage have become obvious dog-whistles for any discussions about the use of Native American imagery for sports teams, and the nature of distributing a survey to uniquely dedicated fans limits the perspective the team will hear. The first two questions are leading, and they are followed by the most obvious lead-in of all: “The logo is an important part of my support for the Indians.” It gives the cowardly Indians an out from responsibility over their logo: Well, the fans said they’d revolt, so Wahoo stays.
The fans won’t revolt. Fans take principled stands against all sorts of shit, either good or bad. The quickest way for the Indians to lose rabid fan support—and the money that comes with it—is to return to irrelevance, which shouldn’t be the case for a handful of years given the team they have assembled.
The silver lining on the Indians’ collapse is that they now have even less reason to hang onto the racist logo. A victory may have convinced the team to hang onto the logo and the “tradition” it represents until the end of time, but they blew a 3-1 lead in the World Series—their third championship loss since 1995, and their fourth since 1948—and Chief Wahoo is an even bigger avatar of failure than he was yesterday.
Cubs and their fans might have gone into this series with the longer championship drought and the more vaunted agony to go with it, but the Indians are the ones with the more recent failure, and they are the one whose wounds will be undoubtedly worsened by the undignified way the team pissed away three games that would have won them the ring.
It’s past time for the Indians to give an unceremonious exit to their racist logo, and they should take their chance to leave it in the ashes of the World Series, as they attempt to rid themselves of the stink that comes with such a massive collapse. Take the chance and run, Cleveland. Take it and run.