Indians To Remove Controversial Logo From Team Uniforms
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Major League Baseball is phasing out a controversial logo. For years, the Cleveland Indians have used a cartoon mascot known as Chief Wahoo. Protesters have called for the team to scrap it. This was a demonstration filmed last year by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: One hundred years-plus - change the name of your baseball team, and change the logo.
GREENE: Now, the team will still be known as the Indians, but next year, no Chief Wahoo. From WCPN ideastream, David C. Barnett reports.
DAVID C. BARNETT, BYLINE: The image in question depicts a big-toothed, grinning caricature of a Native American. The Cleveland Indians have sported it since the 1940s. Standing at the bar of the Wild Eagle Saloon in downtown Cleveland, Cody Kinn says Chief Wahoo has always been a part of his life.
CODY KINN: I grew up drawing him an art class. I mean, there's much more worse mascots out there. I mean, you got the Redskins. Their mascot's way worse than Chief Wahoo.
BARNETT: The Washington Redskins have also seen protests, as have the Atlanta Braves. At the nearby Winking Lizard saloon, Benita Meiser thinks there is nothing wrong with the Cleveland logo. She proudly wears her Wahoo earrings, jackets, and T-shirts without a second thought.
BENITA MEISER: It was just - always been our symbol, just like bears, cats, dogs, anything else. I never really took it any other way.
BARNETT: But many did. They found it offensive and racist. Protesters have regularly boycotted Chief Wahoo on opening day. Cleveland.com sportswriter Bud Shaw says he's come out against the logo ever since 1991.
BUD SHAW: People swear that they don't feel it's inappropriate or tone-deaf toward Native Americans. They feel that it's something they grew up with - their - in their childhood, and they think it's a cartoon.
BARNETT: Shaw says Monday's announcement by Major League Baseball was just the other shoe dropping after Commissioner Rob Manfred announced last spring that he was working with Indians management to phase out Chief Wahoo. The image will be gone from the field, but not necessarily from the gift shop, and fans can certainly still sport their Wahoo paraphernalia. Again, Bud Shaw.
SHAW: Listen, I have Indians fans in my neighborhood that feel very strongly about this, that they're not racist, they shouldn't be made to feel as if they are, that this is just something that's part of their history.
BARNETT: But a new chapter of that history is set to begin on opening day in 2019. For NPR News, I'm David C. Barnett in Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.