A secondary benefit of the playoff run has been the further discussion and exposure of the Indians' use and defense of Chief Wahoo, a racist logo whose time should have long ago expired.
It began with the Toronto series and a trio of huge stories, as far as logo stories go. The first being the Blue Jays' announcer's refusal to use the word Indians while talking about the team. In fact, Jerry Howarth said he hadn't used the name since 1992 when he got a letter from a fan.
“He said, ‘Jerry, I appreciate your work, but in the World Series, it was so offensive to have the tomahawk chop and to have people talk about the ‘powwows on the mound’ and then the Cleveland Indians logo and the Washington Redskins,’” Howarth told The Jeff Blair Show. ”He just wrote it in such a loving, kind way. He said, ‘I would really appreciate it if you would think about what you say with those teams.’”
The second: Former Tribe team president and GM Mark Shapiro said that he was "personally bothered" by the logo.
"The logo — Chief Wahoo — is one that was troubling to me personally," Shapiro said. "So when I was an official spokesman for the Cleveland Indians, I distanced myself from the fact that it personally bothered me. But we as an organization with strong support from ownership came up with the 'Block C' that you're wearing on your credentials right now. We built equity in the 'Block C.'
"We gave that alternative for people and I think that we established that as an important logo and now the primary logo for the Cleveland Indians. And so I'm proud of that.
"I think there will be a day, whenever that is, that the people that are making decisions here decide that Chief Wahoo is no longer fitting. But people in this city — over 90 per cent of them — are deeply, deeply passionate about Chief Wahoo and want him to be part of their team. So that's about all I'll say because I'm not really focused or care that much about that anymore. That's my opinion."
The third story was, of course, the legal challenge in a Canadian court to forbid the broadcast of the Indians' logo or name on airwaves. That injunction was eventually denied but the gambit managed to get an MLB lawyer on the record about the league's stance on the name.
Meanwhile, a few ignorant Indians fans have done the expected and gone all out redface to games through the postseason in Cleveland.
We're better than this, Cleveland pic.twitter.com/sjH3mcucI5— Vince Grzegorek (@vincethepolack) October 7, 2016
Since just the beginning of the playoffs, the renewed spotlight and focus on the deplorable red Sambo has gotten plenty of attention. Here's just a short and non-exhaustive list of the coverage so far:
- It’s time for Major League Baseball to take a stand on Chief Wahoo (NBC Hardball Talk)
- Indians’ Chief Wahoo logo is racist caricature (New York Daily News)
- Hard To Take MLB Seriously On Inclusion With Indians' Racially Insensitive 'Chief Wahoo' (Forbes)
- Cleveland Indians should say goodbye to Chief Wahoo (ESPN)
- Thumbs up to Cleveland for going to the World Series, but send that f'n Chief Wahoo to oblivion (Daily Kos)
- Indians should quit hedging, retire Chief Wahoo completely (Sporting News)
- The Cleveland Indians are liars (Deadspin)
You get the point.
While the team announced the block C logo as its primary logo before the season, ownership has remained steadfast in its stance that Wahoo won't be going anywhere. They are “very cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the conversation” but had “no plans of making a change,” a team spokesman told the Washington Post during the summer.
Their hand might be forced. Yesterday, on a segment with Mike & Mike on ESPN, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was asked about Chief Wahoo. Here's what he said.
"Well, I understand that particular logo is offensive to some people, and I understand why. On the other side of the coin, you have a lot of fans that have history and are invested in the symbols of the Indians. I think that after the World Series, at an appropriate point in time, Mr. [Larry] Dolan and I have agreed we’ll have a conversation about what should happen with that particular logo going forward."
If you ask a certain contingent of Indians fans, nothing should happen. But the (rightful) momentum to be done once and for all with the racist caricature is growing despite backward-ass, fearful, Trumpian pleas for continued ignorance from certain people. This jackass, for example.
Pressure from the commissioner might actually turn the dial on this debate. (If he decided to apply pressure instead of waffling.)
Come strong with your Chief Wahoo stuff tonight Tribe fans! The political correctness is out to get us!— Greg Brinda (@SirFranksnBacon) October 25, 2016
The other thing to consider: If you parse through Mark Shapiro's quotes above, it's abundantly apparent keeping the Chief has been a business decision. For years and years now, the Indians have had the lowest or near lowest attendance in baseball. Their TV deal was nice for region and for the time at which it was signed, but it's a pittance compared to the megadeals brokered in bigger markets. If you're struggling to fill the seats, attract eyeballs and sell merchandise, you probably figure you can't afford to alienate fans. We think that's misguided calculus, that the fans would quickly get over it, but you can understand how ownership and the front office could come to that decision.
So maybe a World Series trip (and, Jobu willing, a World Series championship) assuages some of those business concerns. Maybe with a hefty hike in season tickets for next year, a ticket rake through the playoff games that could damn near well equal or surpass the regular season till in pure dollars, and merchandise flying off the shelves, you're not so concerned about doing the right thing anymore.
But make no mistake, it's always been the right thing to do. The question is when and how the Indians are finally forced to do it.