Inevitable Shift Away From Chief Wahoo Finally Happens
What many assumed would happen for years now has finally become a reality. With pressure from external forces building on an almost daily basis, the Indians took the next step in eliminating Native American imagery from their organization. Chief Wahoo, the longtime primary logo of the Cleveland Indians has officially been relegated to secondary status with the organization. The Block C will take over as the primary logo for the Indians in all marketing materials heading forward.
However, that does not mean that Chief Wahoo is going to the waste side. At least not in 2014. Per Paul Lukas, the main man behind Uni-Watch, the Indians will not use the chief as their primary logo, but a uniform change is not happening for this season. Chief Wahoo will still remain on the team’s home caps as well as on the sleeves of the jerseys. Naturally though, it is only a matter of time before Chief Wahoo is completely removed from the uniforms and banished to the back of a broom closet somewhere in Progressive Field never to be seen from again.
This really should not come as a surprise to anyone that the Indians have decided to make this decision. For starters, the political climate surrounding Native American imagery in sports and offensive names and logos is reaching a tipping point. From a PR standpoint it is almost certainly better to look proactive and taking matters into their own hands rather than holding out and waiting until the time comes when their hand is forced by the government (Here’s looking at you Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins).
We have also been witnessing a gradual shift away from Chief Wahoo in recent years. One look around Progressive Field and this becomes obvious. Chief Wahoo appears nowhere within the confines of the stadium. Not on a banner, scoreboard, program, etc. Even apparel has seen less use of Chief Wahoo. The Indians are aware that the logo has been the cause of a lot of debate and have made it a point to de-emphasize it when it comes to marketing the team. First it was with the introduction of the script I on the hats and uniforms, now it is the use of the Block C.
Admittedly, part of me is sad to see Chief Wahoo pushed into secondary status. I will be even sadder when he is completely eliminated from the team’s look all together. While yes, the logo is obviously offensive to Native American, it is still the only logo I have ever really known. I grew up with Chief Wahoo in my face, especially during the 90’s when Indians fever to the city by storm. You couldn’t look anywhere and not see his smiling face. There are memories and emotions connected to that logo that won’t soon be forgotten.
However, as previously mentioned, the use of Native American imagery by sports teams has become one of the most hotly debated arguments in all of sports. Yes, the Washington Redskins garner most of the attention thanks to their name and the defiance by Daniel Snyder to even consider a change, but the Indians are often brought up as example number two for everything that is wrong with their usage. Certainly the Dolans are aware of this and wanted to do right by Native Americans but while also not offending those of us who don’t want the logo just wiped from memory like removing a band-aid.
In that sense, the move to relegate him to secondary status is a genius marketing move. By gradually phasing him out of existence, it is allowing us to ease our way into a world where there is no Chief Wahoo. When the time comes to finally remove him completely from the team’s uniforms the hope is that hardly anyone will notice, or even care. And while I can honestly say that probably won’t be the case, the move will probably go over much better than had they simply done away with Chief Wahoo all together and pretended as if he never existed.