The legacy and future of Chief Wahoo

Cleveland Indians fans wield signs featuring the Chief Wahoo logo during the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs. CREDIT: SI.com

Chief Wahoo became the official logo of the Cleveland Indians starting in 1946 after the Native American caricature was used by fans and the team as a “non-official” logo since around 1932. It has since been a huge part of the Cleveland Indians team and fan base as the logo has been loved by most through the decades.

Throughout the course of Chief Wahoo’s time as the primary logo for the Indians there had been a lot of speculation as to whether or not the logo was racist because of the enhanced features of the caricature. The logo has changed throughout the past 60 years into different renditions of Chief Wahoo until recently when the team started to use a block C as their primary logo but, Wahoo is still located on their primary hat and makes appearances on the sleeves of most of their uniforms.

The evolution of the Cleveland Indians logos from 1915 to present. CREDIT: Rob Stefanski

Many sports teams (Black-hawks, Redskins, Braves, etc.) still use Native American names as their team names and faces as their logos. There has been a lot of dispute as to whether or not these teams should be forced to change their names and logos or if it these logos aren’t actually offensive at all to the everyday person and is not in fact racist. The main argument going on in the debate is that the depiction of Chief Wahoo helps contribute to the mockery of American Indians. However, supporters of the logo counter that it is simply just a logo. Wahoo is just a cartoon and wasn’t intended to hurt anyone and in 2008, Goldbach, the designer of the logo, said, “It was the last thing on my mind that I would offend someone.” Does a certain number of people getting offended by something warrant for the removal of it though?

The reasoning given to eliminate the logo as a whole is that it is racist and offensive. Some people believe that it is making fun of the American Indian culture and that they are distraught over the use of it. The enhanced features of the logo along with the red skin hit home for some. People (including some being Native American) protest the logo on Opening Day every year by standing outside of Progressive field with signs.

Francisco Lindor celebrates after hitting a 2-run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 1 of the 2016 ALCS. CREDIT: Getty Images / Maddie Meyer

The definition of racism is, “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior”. Using that dictionary definition, one can see why the logo could be considered not racist because the logo is not discriminating and showing one group to be superior.

It is said that Wahoo is not racist because people are proud to wear the logo and love the logo itself. How can something be racist when it is loved by so many because it represents their cities team?

There will eventually be an answer to whether the Indians keep Chief Wahoo as their logo or not but will we ever get the answer of whether it is actually racist?