Wahoo on the way out?

The Cleveland Indians, no doubt devoted ShysterBall readers all of them, are starting to ratchet back Chief Wahoo’s profile:

Observant visitors to spring training this year to see the Indians in their new complex in Goodyear, Ariz., may have noticed something missing. Outside of the Indians’ uniforms, caps and the bustling gift shop at Goodyear Ballpark, Chief Wahoo, the longtime symbol of the team, was absent from the facility . . .

. . . Team President Paul Dolan said, “I know there was some sensitivity involved on the outside of the complex,” regarding the use of the script ‘I’ as opposed to Chief Wahoo . . . As for Goodyear Ballpark, Dolan said: “It’s not our ballpark. I would expect some sensitivity was involved, but ultimately it’s the city’s ballpark.”

A city spokesperson said they followed the Indians’ marketing lead. Since the team used the script ‘I’ as its main “identifier” by putting it in front of the player development complex, the city followed suit at the ballpark . . . “We aren’t phasing Chief Wahoo out,” said Dolan. “We are introducing alternative trademarks – the script ‘I’, script ‘Indians’ and the block ‘C’. They may have had a diluting effect on Chief Wahoo, but we have no plans in place to eliminate Wahoo.”

Not that I would expect some formal announcement from the team along those lines anyway. My feelings on Wahoo notwithstanding, the Indians aren’t some public entity with a responsibility to set the tone in big capital letters and thereby risk alienating the folks who disagree with me on this point. What matters, in my mind, is not what they say, but how they behave, and if they are truly working to diminish the prevalence of Chief Wahoo, good for them.

If they want my advice — and I’m sure they don’t — the next step is to strike Wahoo from the sleeves of those sweet alternate home jerseys. Then replace the batting helmets with the new “C” logo. Last step will be to make the alternates the permanent home uniforms — which should be done for reasons separate and apart from Wahoo — thereby banishing Wahoo from the players’ duds.

That, combined with the already lower profile of Wahoo in recent years (e.g. scoreboard, etc.), will go a long damn way to fixing a damn big problem.

(Thanks to Pete Toms who shot me the link via Ballparks Digest)


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Doc
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Doc

I wholeheartedly agree.  It is way past time and the Redskins should be next.

pete
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pete

Wahoo is racist and needs to go, but part of me will still be sad when it finally happens. When I see Wahoo, I don’t consciously make a connection to any ethnic group…I just think of Indians baseball.

Richard
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Richard

i’m going to be so upset when the wahoo is finally gone

The Common Man
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The Common Man

Holy apples and oranges.  The Notre Dame nickname was created in the 1920s by members of the schools’ alumni.  The mascot is a fictional creature (like the magical animal that makes bacon, pork chops, and ham) that hides pots-o-gold at the end of the rainbow and appears in hilariously bad movies with Jennifer Anniston.

http://www.the-common-man.com

go zips
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go zips

the old tribe logos were, without a doubt, racist depictions of american indians.  chief wahoo has been around for so long and the image used now has been around long enough that people should not feel threatened by it.  chief wahoo is synonymous with cleveland indians baseball.  by now, he is just a logo.  longevity should have a say in the discussion.

go zips
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go zips

one more thing – are all the people who do the tomahawk chop at braves and fsu games racist?

Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra

Zips:  “tradition” is something routinely cited to justify and perpetuate stupidity and insensitivity. Lawn jockeys and minstril shows were around for a long time too, and I don’t think that their longevity really has any say in the argument.  Offensive is offensive, no matter how long it has offended.

As for the Tomahawk Chop: I don’t know if they’re racist. I do know that they look like utter morons, though.

Jason B
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Jason B

“Fixing a damn big problem” >>> “Fixing a truly minor annoyance in the grand scheme of problems.”

/respectfully fixed/

Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra

Jason—if it’a on this blog, it is, by definition, a minor thing as compared to the great big world, so your qualification is implied.

MooseinOhio
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MooseinOhio
Go zips – Just because an image has been in existence for a long time does not mean that it’s existence is acceptable.  As you stated the image was one of several racist images used by the Tribe and other sports teams that harbor back to a day when overt racism was the norm in this country.  The continued usage of such images never lets the wounds of our past fully heal as they do evoke painful memories for many folks.  Some of those memories are associated with baseball and I have been blessed to meet several men who played… Read more »
RC
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RC

Must be hard to type from way up there on your high horse.  (Joking.  Sort of.)

joao
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joao
Craig, You had a post not long ago from an Indians fan who, if I recall correctly, was pleading for shifting the ground on which this issue was argued.  His point that the least effective strategy for accomplishing the objective of removing/altering Chief Wahoo was to alienate the people who have affection for the symbol for reasons having little to do with racism.  Anyway, I agreed with that post and the point of my earlier post was to find a way to get past this “stalemate” (I put the word “stalemate” in quotes because there’s really no huge controversy here… Read more »
J. McCann
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J. McCann

I wonder if this is more an Arizona thing.  I’m sure there are many more Native Americans near their spring traing park than by Cleveland.  So maybe they just figure they should tread lightly in that state.

Ultimately they are a private company and are free to use whatever logo they want, understanding that a certain part of the population will not like it.

Real American
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Real American
the crybabies should shut up and get over themselves. Wahoo is a beloved icon and doesn’t hurt anyone in any legally definable way. No one is injured physically or financially. No one is being denied of any legal rights by the use of Wahoo. if seeing Wahoo hurts your feelings, then go see a doctor and get this self-imposed mental problem fixed. no one says you have to like or enjoy this character, but that doesn’t mean that those who do shouldn’t be able to and they certainly shouldn’t be smeared for doing so. Wahoo is great. The only ones… Read more »
Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall
Craig has an unusually rational approach to this issue (offensive logo, inoffensive name), but as the NCAA mascot nonsense proved, once you give grievance bullies and political correctness fanatics an inch, they’ll never stop. Witness the description above of the staid Redskins logo—-exactly the kind of logo the Indians should have (inoffensive logo-offensive name, by the way) as “stereotypical.” Dartmouth, a school that was founded for Indian education, banned its Indian mascot, though nobody seems to be offended by Harvard’s “stereotypical” Pilgrim mascot, perhaps because there aren’t any Pilgrim advocates trying to win political concessions. Me, I’d favor giving all… Read more »
fleerdon
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fleerdon
Actual Indians fan here. I think what the Indians are doing is dialing Chief Wahoo back to a sub-alternate logo, kind of where the Brewers are with the old mb/glove logo. Keep it on the home alternate uniform, license a few caps on the side. You diminish the Chief’s significance without turning it into a crusade, one way or the other, and I think that’s the responsible way to do it. I appreciate Craig’s take. I’m a big fan of the block-C, by the way—it actually dates back to the start of the franchise. The script-I is anemic and stupid… Read more »
MooseinOhio
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MooseinOhio

@ Jack Mashall – It is hard for me to call people asking that racist images, such as Chief Wahoo or Sambo, “grievance bullies and political correctness fanatics” and that actions taken by organizations to remove such hurtful images as “incipient censorship”.  Also, equating your choice to have a silly caricature drawn by the mall artist with centuries of oppression is an apples and elephant comparison.  If you care to learn more about some of the negative effect of racist caricatures I have provided some links below as I think your perspective may be limited.

http://www.aics.org/NCRSM/index.htm

http://www.tolerance.org/news/article_tol.jsp?id=169

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackface

http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/menu.htm

http://www.newsreel.org/nav/title.asp?tc=CN0026

Ron
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Ron
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the Queen and her family have filed a lawsuit and gotten an injuction against the major league club in Kansas City for the audacity of using the name “Royals”. When asked for a comment, the Queen replied, “I don’t know who these colonials think they are, trying to associate themselves with my birthright. If this was London, I could have tortured by having lunch with Charles. He would give them a good talking to.” Latest word from Kansas City General mis-Manager Dayton Moore is that, until the suit is settled, and in order to prove… Read more »
The Common Man
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The Common Man
Oh, well since a real American thinks Wahoo isn’t offensive at all, I guess we can all pack it up and go home.  Thanks for weighing in there. Meanwhile, back in reality, no one here is arguing that Wahoo “hurts anyone in a legally definable way,” just that a) it’s a racist caricature, and b) if you’re not some self-righteous narcisist who only cares about their needs, wants, and desires, you probably don’t want to use it.  You know, I may want to call someone a xenophobic, jingoistic redneck… but I don’t because I don’t want people to think I’m… Read more »
tadthebad
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tadthebad

Doc,

We’re not talking about removing the name “Indians”, just the racist logo.  I think the Redskins removed the steriotypical warrior figure from their franchise some years ago.

Joao
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Joao
My question for the Craigs of the world (and I ask this sincerely): let’s say they gradually toned down the more caricaturesque aspects of the Chief Wahoo icon and turned him into a more sober looking indian? Would that make any difference? Or are all depictions of American Indians racist? Because the choice needn’t be necessarily to keep it or to completely eliminate all traces of it.  Maybe they could do something like the Orioles did, turning the cartoon bird, into just a plain (and better) looking bird straight out of the Audobon society’s bird watching guide. Similarly, if the… Read more »
Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra
Joao—I can’t speak for everyone, but I think that it would make all the difference in the world if they made the sorts of changes you described.  I’m not opposed to the Indians name or the concept of Indians as mascots. I’m a Braves fan for cryin’ out loud.  My sole issue with Wahoo is that it is a racist caricature of Indians akin to blackface Sambo characters, hook-nosed Jews, slant-eyed Asians and the like. I could totally envision an Inidan mascot that would be entirely acceptable.  The Indians would probably find that, if they wanted to go in that… Read more »
MooseinOhio
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MooseinOhio
@Jack – As an educator I greatly appreciate discussion and dialogue and use it as a common teaching practice and in that process want to have a wide diversity of views presented.  I am not advocating that an entity, such as MLB, force Cleveland to remove the logo however I do wish that the team would recognize that harmful impact of the logo.  As for my ‘enlightment’, maybe I do view the world differently because I am married to a black woman who has African, Puerto Rican, Native American and Irish hertitage.  Maybe I view the world differently because I… Read more »
Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall

Moose: I stand by my comment, stop arguing with things I didn’t say, and spare me your more-sensitive-than-thou enlightenment. Cartoons don’t “oppress” anyone, especially cartoons that symbolize beloved sports franchises. I agree that Chief Wahoo is one of the genuinely offensive logos and I wouldn’t miss him, but people like you can’t tell the difference between offensive and inoffensive. Banning speech, offensive or not, is offensive to me, but be my guest: advocate it, Draw a picture, even.

Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall
Offense is often in the mind of the beholder, and one individual’s perception of offense should not dictate conduct. Most people, I think, even those who are not hypersensitive, would agree that Chief Wahoo is anachronistic and vaguely embarrassing at best. Calling the logo “hateful,” however, is exactly the kind of over-reaching I object to. The image was obviously not intended as a tool of hate: people do not use “hateful” images to symbolize a community’s baseball team. Nor was hate ever intended, since the Indians were named to HONOR a Native American. (Even the currently offensive team name “Redskins”… Read more »
Charles Brown
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Charles Brown
Kudos to the Indians organization for eliminating a beloved team symbol to enforce correct attitudes among an ignorant populace.  I was born with a large (size 8 1/2) head.  All my life, I have had to endure painful ridicule from insensitive people who complain that I block out the sun’s rays and that they can’t see the movie when seated behind me in a theatre.  For years, I have waged a campaign against Mr. Met, the bulbous-domed mascot of the Mets, and his cousin, the nefariously derivative Cincinnati Redleg.  Every time I see the supposedly comic images of these two… Read more »
Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra

“since the Indians were named to HONOR a Native American.”

Except that is completely untrue.  It’s a myth that has been debunked over and over.

“The image was obviously not intended as a tool of hate”

If you do something with innocent intentions but later find out that your actions were insensitive and hurtful to unintended third parties, do you simply blow it off and ignore it?  Is it ethical to wash one’s hands of the unintended consequences we set in motion?

Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra

Jack, one more thing:

“Offense is often in the mind of the beholder, and one individual’s perception of offense should not dictate conduct.”

This is exactly the kind of relativism you have criticized when applied to steroids.  Why is it acceptable now.  A racist caricature is either OK or not OK.  Which is it, Jack?

Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall
Craig—to answer your questions 1) maybe yes, maybe no. and 2)Depends on how you balance the equation. Thanks for the clarification on Lou S., though it doesn’t change the fact that the logo is not “hateful,” and wasn’t. In this case, I think there’s no benefit or need sufficient to justify keeping the symbol, so the answer to both questions would be “yes.” In the case of cutting the Indian numbers in the musicals “Peter Pan” and “Annie Get your Gun”, or the “Rape” song in “The Fantastiks”, or much of “Show Boat,” including “Old Man River,” on the other… Read more »
Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall

Wait a minute! “Racist” and “offensive” and “hateful” are simply not absolute terms, and I do NOT have to agree with the assessment of anyone or everyone, no matter how sincere. I don’t endorse relativism, but some things are indeed relative.

MooseinOhio
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MooseinOhio
Jack:  The intent behind many of these images/caricatures being discussed was based on overt prejudices and were parts of intentional acts to discriminate – which in my book fall into the hate category.  That is the main reason I included the links in a previous post because movies such as ‘Birth of a Nation’, images of Sambo, Chief Wahoo and the many of the cartoon I adored growing up were designed in large part to maintain a certain social order with the dominant white culture clearly superior to all others.  The documentaty Ethnic Notion demonstrates this well regarding negative images… Read more »
Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall

Moose, that’s swell with me, provided that “agree to disagree” doesn’t mean that you tell me what I have to be offended by to avoid being labeled as “racist” and “hateful.”

MooseinOhio
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MooseinOhio

Jack:  I never labeled you or anyone else and have not attempted to make this personal in any way and if for some reason you felt I had, then I apologize.

Real American
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Real American
Common Man, you need to learn how to argue correctly. I disagree that Wahoo is racist. People disagree with me. That’s fine. That’s the debate. It isn’t “reality” that Wahoo is racist. Your whole argument is premised on your belief that Wahoo is a racist caricature. But you’re simply arguing that Wahoo is racist because its racist. That’s called circular reasoning. This a debate with more than one side. Anyway, this debate is entirely about perception because, as I argued and you admit, no one is injured here. I don’t see Wahoo and think bad things about Native Americans. You… Read more »
Will
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Will

It is still pretty confusing to me that something innocuous as a charicature of an ethnic group causes such a reaction, while there are logos out there like the Hurricanes or for Christ’s sake the Tulane Green Wave that are representative of people actually dying that get off scott free.  And if Chief Wahoo reminds you of the Trail of Tears, well then you are beyond hope.

pablo
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pablo

I just realized that I’m offended by lots of stuff.  The Trojan guy from USC…ohhh it makes me so angry.  OH and the Popeye Spartan guy from Mich St.  How offensive.  And that completely offensive swinging Padre cartoon guy.  It makes me so mad.  Don’t get me started on the offense I take at the “fighting Irish”  the cartoon leprichan is reprehensible.  Ohhhh the humanity.

Pablo

daltonic
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daltonic
how can anyone look @ Wahoo and not think that’s a racist logo? people may love it, but that doesn’t make it right. chief wahoo was introduced in, what, 1947? america has grown up quite a bit from that time, no? why is it so hard to let go of something that is so obviously not right in its current state? obviously, the cleveland organization has every right to use it – but that doesn’t mean they should use it. it’s 2009. let’s embrace how far we’ve come as a nation rather than hold on to an old stereotype just… Read more »
Rich
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Rich

They should scrap Indians all together.  Using human beings as mascots is unacceptable in this day and age.

Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall
Oh Rich: Because it’s unacceptable to YOU, it’s unacceptable, right? I guess that makes you the Ultimate Arbiter of Acceptable Graphics and Communications. Glad to know that. Presumably, you mean logos AND mascots (there is no Chief Wahoo running around that I’ve ever seen), so the Quaker Oats Quaker, the Doublemint Twins, Mister Clean and Betty Crocker are also “unacceptable,” along with the Pittsburgh Pirate, the Twins, and the Padre. It’s OK, though, to have under-paid human beings sweating in furry costumes as mascots, or do you object to animal mascots too? Cartoons are obviously out, right? (Chief Wahoo isn’t… Read more »
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