MLB says Commissioner Rob Manfred “desire[s]” to have the Cleveland Indians “transition away from the Chief Wahoo logo,” and insists that “specific steps” are being taken in conjunction with team executives to find a “positive resolution” to the issue.
In a statement sent to the New York Times today (and later sent to Deadspin), MLB spokesperson Pat Courtney said:
Thus far, there have been productive discussions with the Cleveland Indians regarding the Commissioner’s desire to transition away from the Chief Wahoo logo. We have specific steps in an identified process and are making progress. We are confident that a positive resolution will be reached that will be good for the game and the Club.
Courtney did not elaborate on the “specific steps” the league and team are taking regarding the logo.
During the World Series, Manfred said he would engage in conversations with the Indians about the logo, and what steps could be taken to de-emphasize the logo or do away with it entirely. After it was announced that Cleveland would host the 2019 All-Star Game, Manfred told reporters he’d “had a number of conversations” with team owner Paul Dolan and minority owner John Sherman, but declined to expand on that answer.
When former general manager and president Mark Shapiro was with the Indians, he made it clear he found the logo to be racist and moved to have the team de-emphasize Wahoo and make the block-C its primary logo. Shapiro left the Indians in 2015 to become the president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays, and since then the Indians have been spinning their wheels and issuing vague comments on the use of the racist caricature.
The Indians trotted out uniforms fitted with the Wahoo cap throughout the 2016 postseason, explaining that the players were choosing to wear them for each game due to the good luck they were having in them through October.
The Times spoke with Bob DiBiasio, the Indians’ senior vice president for public affairs, during Tuesday’s home opener:
“We certainly understand the sensitivities of the logo, those who find it insensitive and also those fans who have a longstanding attachment to its place in the history of the team,” he said.
DiBiasio called the continuing talks productive between Manfred and Paul Dolan, the Indians’ chairman and chief executive. With their sights set on a return to the World Series, the Indians would prefer to address Chief Wahoo after the season to avoid any distractions that could alienate a large swath of fans while games are being played.
“Our primary focus right now is on the team,” he said.
DiBiasio’s excuse that the issue can’t be fully reckoned with until the end of the season so as to avoid “any distractions” is a tough one to buy. Everyone has been well aware of the fact that the Wahoo logo is racist for years now, and the Indians just had a five-month offseason. If the only concern is avoiding in-season distractions, why didn’t they do something about the logo in December?
If the Indians continue on the course they’ve followed over the last few seasons, we’ll be in this same position next April, with the team making the block-C its primary logo and insisting that it is “sensitive” to the two sides of the debate.
There aren’t two sides to this debate, but as long as the Indians keep issuing bland statements like the one above, people can pretend there is some sort of nuanced discussion that still needs to be had. It’s heartening to see Manfred pushing the Indians toward ditching the Wahoo logo, but so far he has accomplished nothing aside from generating conversations that have yet to lead to any real action.