Walking Away from Wahoo
Chief Wahoo is moving one step closer to retirement...kinda. On Tuesday, The Cleveland Indians Organization announced that the blue hats with the controversial Chief Wahoo logo worn with the navy blue home alternate jerseys, seen in the 2016 World Series, will be phased out for the 2017 season. Instead, the red hats with the block "C" will be worn. The team will continue to wear the "Chief Wahoo" logo with their Home Whites, and their Road Alternates. That means that out of the six uniform options for game time, Chief Wahoo will be on the sleeve of all six, but on the hats of only two.
So it's better, but it's not the best.
The team has attempted to distance themselves from the Chief Wahoo logo, trying out several different ideas including just a single cursive "I", which failed to gain traction, probably because it looked like a "J". The Iowa Cubs, the triple-A affiliate for the Chicago Cubs, also uses a single "I" as their main hat logo. The Iowa Cubs now switch between the lackluster "I" and a Chicago Cubs logo with "Iowa" on the right corner of the seal. It works better, in my opinion.
In my opinion, what work better is using the block "C" for Cleveland. The logo itself is a throwback to the 1904 Cleveland Bluebirds logo, the original American League club in Northeast Ohio. The crisp, clean block design, gives the cap a refined and subtle feel. It's a good design that meshes an old school feel with a new sense of simplicity. It harkens back to a time when the Yankees, Athletics, Red Sox, Cubs and White Sox all had simple, yet recognizable logos. There was no gimmick, there was no mascot, just a a letter on a hat. Simple.
The only downside, as you can imagine, is that it has no real specificity to it. I have two friends who wear this hat all the time. One friend didn't know it was a Cleveland Indians hat, and the other has it because his last name begins with "C". In fact, for my birthday my girlfriend pointed to a Cleveland C fitted and told me to get it, as my last name begins with "C". I said, "Nah, that's a Cleveland Indians hat." To which she scowled and said, "Oh, then absolutely not."
And I get that, but it's easy for me to say as I have ZERO dog in this fight. My teams logos are things that go in shoes, and a dude with a baseball for a head, pretty PC stuff. Growing up North of Boston, the only moderately offensive professional team was the Boston Celtics, but 95% of us were Irish so it really didn't matter. HOWEVER, the towns near me were a bit rougher. How rough? Well, how does the Redmen sound? We also had our own Indians team, and growing up my town, the "Golden Warriors," 100% had a Native American as the logo on our Youth Hockey Jerseys. My town has since moved on to being an Eagle, BECAUSE THAT MAKES SENSE, but still to this day the names Redmen and Indians have remained unchanged, and that's not great. It feels uncomfortable, it feels left behind, it feels... nasty. SIDENOTE: There's a town in my old high school's conference who are known as the Middies, as in the Midshipmen, and I have never gotten over the jealousy of how dope that sounds. "Who do you play on Sunday? THE MIDSHIPMEN? JESUS."
The Redskins have faced the most scrutiny for their lack of name change, or really any change, and owner Dan Snider has made numerous comments about about whether or not a logo change or team name would change. He's been really vague about whether or not he wants to do it, being quoted saying things like, "We'll never change the name... It's that simple. NEVER—you can use caps." This isn't about Dan Snider, who is a massive DICK, but I think you have to look at the Cleveland situation with Washington in mind.
When you look up the word "Redskin" in most modern dictionaries you'll also see the words "disparaging," "insulting," and "usually offensive," which aren't the best words to find in a definition. Australians use the C**T word all the time, but in the U.S. it's one of the worst fucking cuss words we have. It's usually offensive, which means it's best not to use it at all.
So why the push back? Why haven't we gotten rid of the name? In my opinion, I think it's because no one else has. In the world of professional sports, there have been zero name changes from something offensive to something not offensive. We've seen Bobcats become Hornets, Bullets become Wizards and even Colt .45s became Astros, but we have never seen offensive to not offensive. Why? Because it's hard to let go.
Before we move on, I want to make it clear that I am Pro Name Change. I think it's best to change something sooner rather than later, because the longer you wait to do something, the worse it looks. And by now, Cleveland would have gotten some support from the Native American Community if the name and logo weren't issues. The Chicago Blackhawks have the approval of the Chicago-based American Indian Center and the Florida State Seminoles worked closely with the Seminole Tribe to not only design a logo, but to emphasize the reasons they chose the name, and why they hold it to such a high regard. It's not about what it means to you, it's still usually offensive and you're a professional sports team.
So let's head back to Cleveland. When the logo was created in 1948, it wasn't meant to be offensive. However, over time that casual ignorance grew into something offensive. I understand a lot of Cleveland fans saying, "It was never meant to be offensive." GOOD. I'M GLAD. If it was meant to be offensive and you haven't changed it, then fuck off. No one was arguing it was meant to be offensive. However, when the team was renamed "the Indians," we still had minstrel shows in the U.S.
I think is difficult for people to let go the team they call their own. "I am an Indians fan and have been for many, many years." It's a matter of pride, it's what you grew up with; it's yours. That's where I see the pushback coming from in Cleveland, so I want to say this as clearly as possible: the team is not leaving, the logo and name are changing. I'm sure the Montreal fans would love to have kept the Montreal Expos if all they had to do was change their name, instead their team left and now plays in Washington. The Brooklyn Dodgers moved across the country, but still kept their name. Does that make them the same team to their loyal Ebbets Field Faithful? No. They left. We're not asking you to forsake your past, we're asking you to change your future.
Cleveland Baseball is not going anywhere, but until it does this will be a stain on the club. During the World Series many people, very pedestrian in their baseball fandom, picked sides because of Chief Wahoo. "I can't root for that logo," "I don't want those guys to win." In a time where Cleveland has been the underdog in two big sports championships having a hard reason to root against them seems odd. I wanted the Cavs to beat Golden State because I thought Cleveland had earned it, and I wanted to see Lebron keep his promise to Northeast Ohio. In the World Series, I kept on seeing Chief Wahoo, and I kept thinking, "this isn't right."
Commissioner Rob Manfred and Cleveland owner Larry Dolan are supposed to meet to discuss a logo and name change at some point in the near future, but that meeting has not taken place. I hope it does and that it bears some fruit for the future. I think it's time to retire Chief Wahoo and move forward with something new, because frankly this was the worst part of the World Series:
And it might always be the worst part of the 2016 World Series.