Home Opinion OPINION: Chief Wahoo is an important symbol for Cleveland

OPINION: Chief Wahoo is an important symbol for Cleveland

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Chief Wahoo will be retired by the Cleveland Indians. Photo by Arturo Pardavila III via Wikimedia Commons.

The Cleveland Indians announced that the MLB team will part ways with their longtime logo. Opinion Editor Ben Peters says Chief Wahoo transcends baseball.

The Cleveland Indians announced that the team will, unfortunately, be removing the iconic Chief Wahoo logo from Progressive Field and the jerseys of players beginning in 2019. A statement was made Jan. 29 by Rob Manfred, the commissioner of the MLB, to remove the logo in the name of “diversity and inclusion.” It is sad to see Wahoo go.

Chief Wahoo has been a historic symbol of pride for the team, the fans and the city for nearly a century. However, some find Chief Wahoo to be insensitive, offensive and racist in his representation of natives.

The logo has had numerous incarnations over the years, but the one currently in use depicts a harmless caricature of a red-faced Native American with an enormous grin across his face and a feather in his head. There is nothing that is actually racist about the image. If anything, Chief Wahoo’s mere existence contradicts Manfred’s odd justification for removing the logo. Wahoo directly promotes “diversity and inclusion” in portraying Native Americans in good spirit—thus giving them positive representation on a national stage that they may not have otherwise had.

The decision to have the logo removed has been a long time coming following years of discussion over the dissatisfaction some groups share with it, including Manfred himself. The biggest opponent of Wahoo, however, seems to be the Cleveland American Indian Movement of Ohio. The group had lawsuits filed as early as 1972 in efforts to not only have the logo removed but also to change the team’s name.

Other Native American advocacy groups have also gathered to protest outside of Progressive Field before games, claiming that they “are not mascots.” The problem is that Chief Wahoo is not the mascot of the Cleveland Indians. The team mascot is actually a “fuzzy, fuchsia-colored” figure named Slider.

A Toronto activist in 2016 attempted, through the courts, to prevent the Indians players from playing with the logo on their jerseys. But thankfully a superior court judge prevented the case from proceeding.

The only group of people who seem to want the logo to remain are fans of the team and residents of the Cleveland area.

Apart from insane, the most accurate adjective to describe Cleveland sports fans is passionate.  There is no other city in the nation that shares the same level of unwavering support for, and pride in, its professional sports teams through both exuberant highs and excruciating lows. For evidence, look no further than the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Finals victory parade (the sixth largest sports celebration ever which attracted over one million people to downtown Cleveland) and the 2018 Cleveland Browns 0-16 parade following an abysmal season.

In the case of the Cleveland Indians, its inclusion in the 2016 world series marked the modern pinnacle of pride in the team. Game seven of that series is one that Clevelanders will not soon forget — prompting the fans at Progressive Field to hold a moment of silence on its anniversary. Fans of the Indians show nothing but love for Chief Wahoo and what he means to the team.

For the people of Cleveland, Chief Wahoo is a symbol that transcends baseball. It is worn on everything from hats to t-shirts and is waved proudly on residents’ flagpoles. Wahoo’s appearance is essential to the identity of a Clevelander and is a far-cry to what the critics would have one believe the symbol stands for. He will be greatly missed by anyone who resides in Cleveland or is a proud Tribe fan.

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