Cleveland Indians Will Remove Chief Wahoo From Uniforms for 2019 Season

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Cleveland Indians Will Remove Chief Wahoo From Uniforms for 2019 Season
Aaron Sechrist

It's been clear for more than a year now that Chief Wahoo's days were numbered. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred had said as much in multiple interviews — in January 2017 when he said he'd had spoken with the Dolans about the racist red Sambo and hoped to continue the conversation, and in April 2017 when he explicitly said he wanted the team to drop the logo. By August, owner Paul Dolan told attendees at an eastside event that the timeline was moving faster than he'd expected though the two sides weren't yet in total agreement. And in October, Manfred told reporters that he intended to "deal with" the issue this offseason.

Well, the offseason is almost officially over, and while Wahoo will indeed stick around for 2018, it will not be part of the Tribe's uniforms — caps and jerseys — going forward beginning in 2019, the team announced.

(That's the same year that Cleveland will host the All Star Game. A source told us last year that the elimination of Wahoo prior to the signature summer weekend of the MLB season was a condition of Cleveland being awarded the game. An MLB spokesperson told us at the time that was not true. Paul Dolan, in an interview with the Plain Dealer on the decision, also denied the Manfred used the midsummer classic as a carrot or stick.)

"Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game," Manfred said in a statement today. "Over the past year, we encouraged dialogue with the Indians organization about the club's use of the Chief Wahoo logo. During our constructive conversations, Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a longstanding attachment to the logo and its place in the history of the team.

"Nonetheless, the club ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball, and I appreciate Mr. Dolan's acknowledgement that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course."

For his part, Dolan said in a statement: "We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion," Dolan said. "While we recognize many of our fans have a long-standing attachment to Chief Wahoo, I'm ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred's desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019."

Dolan took the both-sides tack in the PD interview as well, going above and beyond to convey to Keep the Chiefers just what an allegedly terribly hard time ownership had making the call.

"This is the hardest decision we've had to make during our entire ownership," Dolan told Terry Pluto, who noted that Dolan’s voice “cracked” with emotion during the conversation.

Of course, by using language like that, by laying at least part of the blame at the feet of MLB and Manfred — “I'm ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred's desire” — Dolan is acting entirely in deference to the Keep the Chief sect, and by design: It’s them that wanted it gone, he’s saying. It’s them that forced our hand.

It was long past time for someone to force the Indians to do something, because they certainly weren’t going to do anything on their own. And even this long overdue move — the simplest and the most obvious one— has to be couched in both-sideisms and overwrought emotions.

Wahoo will get a season-long curtain call, and the Indians will still be able to sell Wahoo merch going forward, though it will not be available on MLB's site (the merchandising portion will go forward to satisfy legal requirements, so the team maintains the trademark on the garish, racist caricature), but it’s about time we said good fucking riddance.

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