How hard can it be to change a racist logo?

Changing a sports team’s logo is a pretty simple task. All it takes is a bucketload of money, as the Minnesota Timberwolves showed last night as part of the team’s plan to wipe away the stench of bad basketball.

Wiping away the stench of racism, however, continues to befuddle the sports world and the people who run the leagues, particularly baseball and football.

If there’s a logo worth talking about today, it’s this one: “Chief Wahoo”, the utterly indefensible logo of the Cleveland Indians, which the team’s fans have embraced as historical. Historical like a Woolworth’s lunch counter.


Today, the New York Times reports that baseball is almost-but-not-quite ready to do something about it.

In a statement to The New York Times, Pat Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, said Manfred, in his talks with the Indians’ owners, had made clear his “desire to transition away from the Chief Wahoo logo.’’

“We have specific steps in an identified process and are making progress,’’ Courtney added. “We are confident that a positive resolution will be reached that will be good for the game and the club.’’

Although Manfred had previously acknowledged a willingness to engage in talks with the Indians about the logo, Courtney’s statement appears to be the first time that Manfred is identified as having staked out a clear position on the issue.

It is an issue, however, that may not be that easy to resolve. Although many people, including baseball fans around the country, would welcome the removal of Chief Wahoo, there is a significant segment of the Indians’ fan base that still cherishes the logo, which has existed in various forms since 1947.

The reasonable answer a strong baseball commissioner would and should provide the team and fans is obvious: “Too bad.”

But baseball’s commissioner hasn’t been a position of strength for decades.

The focus on the issue usually comes on one day of the year in baseball: opening day in Cleveland. That was yesterday. And, as in years past, the locals played the “what’s the big deal?” card for the national media, which also tends to cover the issue one day a year (unless the Indians make the World Series).

“Chief Wahoo is the Cleveland Indians,” Karen Hale, an Indians fan, told the Times, mirroring the legend that was handed down from generations before. “I think there comes a time when you have to take a stand for what you believe in. I don’t think it’s hurting anybody.”

And that’s the problem. Cleveland fans are taking a stand. Again.

As in years past, Philip Yenyo, the executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio, stood outside Progressive Field to protest the logo and mascot. And, as in years past, fans strolled by and told him to “get over it.”


The team’s approach — accommodating its more racist fans — isn’t working. It tried to replace the logo with this looker a few years ago, hoping that maybe the loyalists either wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t care.


Oddly enough, while it’s the “official” logo, it never caught on, and the fans never took the hint. And that’s the thing with racism. It doesn’t go away through hints. Someone has to be willing to make racists angry.

Bob DiBiasio, the Indians’ senior vice president for public affairs, confirmed the team isn’t going to do that, telling the Times the team would rather wait until the end of the season to address the issue, as if that would be the first off-season opportunity the team has had to think about things.

“Our primary focus right now is on the team,’’ he told the Times.

“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,” Mark Shapiro, who started the team’s effort to shift away from the mascot a few years ago.

It’s not his problem anymore. He quit more than a year ago to run a team whose mascot is a bird.

Meanwhile, the Times says, the Wahoo survives… and thrives. An apt metaphor for racism in America.

  • MrE85

    It’s the same nonsense we saw with the University of North Dakota.

    • crystals

      And the Washington football team.

      • Will

        Now that’s an actual racist name… just get people to stop going to the games in Washington…

        • Ralphy

          The argument isn’t about the baseball team name. It is about a logo that many (most) find to be racially offensive.

    • I think there’s at least a defensible position that the UND logo was not racist — I happen to agree that it was, but I concede I can’t prove it was. There is NO defense of this logo. None.

      • Robert Moffitt

        Or of the people who wear it.

      • Pundit456

        The logo requires NO defense.
        People may “choose” to infer a racist connotation but there is no evidence of any racial motivation, racist intent or malice on the part of the players or owners.

        • lindblomeagles

          Pundit, Major League Baseball’s Commissioner Manfred and the team’s spokesman Courtney have come to some agreement, according to the story posted above, that the logo has to change. I’m not sure why you’re trying to convince all of us here that racism doesn’t exist unless there’s some intent or malice or some other criterion of yours, but it looks like you’ve misread history and this article, and have genuinely no idea what racism is.

          • Pundit456

            Like any other American, Manfred is entitled to his opinion; and, if so empowered, free to capitulate.
            However, it would be ludicrous to infer that such capitulation would in any way validate the allegations or change anyone’s perception of Indians. In fact any capitulation by MLB would be a calculated business decision; although it will allow Indians and their proponents to delude themselves that they won something.

          • lindblomeagles

            Pundit, if you don’t like Indians just say it. You keep dancing around this topic and it seems suspicious than actual genuine opinion. Moreover, I ALREADY made the point teams change logos, uniforms, and colors when it suits their financial interests in as many as 3 posts, one was to Bob Collins, the blog writer. Native Americans have been marginalized going far back into our history. Some of that marginalization occurs today from us, so – called everyday Americans, some of it by them. These are undisputed facts. What’s also undisputed is the Indians HAVE the power to change whatever they want, fans be damned. The fans have no rights in this or any expectation of rights. Stadium fights have proven that. So, get it over with already. You have a bias against Native Americans and you could care less what happens to them. Own it already.

          • Pundit456

            To fully appreciate your comment I need you to tell me two things.
            First, if “Americans” are not “native” to this country, to what country do you consider them “native”?
            Second, is it your contention that the only people who do not oppose the logo are people who do not like Indians?

          • lindblomeagles

            I’m not sure why you’re asking either of these questions, but as everybody should know, the United States of America has continued to be a beacon for immigrants since the Spanish, French, British, Dutch, and Swedes commissioned small parties to explore the land and claim it before their enemies did. The Native Americans, who were indigenous to the United States, hoped to establish trade and military alliances with each one of these European parties. In the end, disease and warfare with Europeans eradicated most Native Americans from BOTH continents, North and South America, which more easily allowed Europeans to settle the continents. We know the Native Americans were indigenous here because they had no immunities to European diseases and had established trading relations throughout the United States BEFORE Europeans entrenched themselves here. The TRUE magnificence of America is that WE ALWAYS HAVE JOBS, so as each decade has gone by, America continues to add immigrants. As for your second question, Native Americans actually DO NOT have red skin, and in most tribes, they do not recognize self portraits or caricatures. Generally speaking, it is against their religions, which is why the logo is racist and offensive. As I mentioned before, the Atlanta Braves similarly had a headshot of Native American. They DID remove that head shot. The Pirates have also been moving away from a headshot of a (white) Pirate too. The San Diego Padres used to caricaturize a Franciscan monk for a logo. They removed that logo as well. We can dance around this subject as often as you like, but in the end, it comes down to this: do you respect somebody else or don’t you? Are you going to be polite or are you not? Can a logo be a nice looking logo, but still offensive and therefore, removable? In the case of Cleveland, no, no, and no. In the case of Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and San Diego, the answer was yes, yes, and yes to these three questions.

          • Pundit456

            “Dance”? Indeed you did waltz around two direct questions without ever answering either.
            The reason for the questions was to establish whether or not you could concede two fundamental facts; i.e., that Americans are “native” to the United States, and that one can oppose a group’s fabricated victim status without harboring any animus toward the group itself; or if you are being intractable and obtuse.
            Clearly the latter is the case so it is futile to discuss it further.

          • lindblomeagles


        • Neil

          Thing is, racism does not require racial motivation, intent, or malice. Maybe it’s all born of naiveté, but that doesn’t mean it’s not racist.

          • Right. It doesn’t matter what went into the creation of anything that became a symbol. It only matters that it represents something.

            But the suggestion that the problem isn’t the symbol but how people view it is consistent with people who want Chief Wahoo eliminated. Just stop being racist.

          • Pundit456

            Two types of people cry racism; those who want to be perceived as victims and those who want to be perceived as champions for the victims.
            A racist is a person whose regard for others is informed by racial preconceptions.
            Such preconceptions notwithstanding, the person is guilty of nothing illegal unless and until the person engages in behavior proscribed under Title VII.
            It is not illegal to be a racist.

          • Neil

            Not sure what your point is here, but I think the notion that people only cry racism gives us all a good hint.

    • ec99

      As Florida State and the U of Utah demonstrated, money goes a long way to salving bruised sensitivities.

  • Will

    Isn’t the Vikings logo just as offensive to some groups of people? As a person of Danish and Cherokee ancestry I don’t see any difference in the two symbols…I also happen to be Irish and that little fighting leprechaun is probably the most offensive of the 3 since it plays on the racist idea of Irish people getting drunk and fighting.

    Can someone throw up the “Caucasians” parody of this logo from Cleveland?

    • Kassie

      Vikings don’t exist, so they can’t be offended. Indians exist and are offended.

      Leprechauns do not exist, so they cannot be offended. Again, Indians are real people.

      • Will

        The Vikings are just as real as any other group, Indians do exist in India… Native Americans were on the continent first.

        • Jerry

          Unless you’ve pillaged a monastery recently, you’re not a Viking. You’re a Scandinavian.

          • Will

            Can’t you say that same thing to Indians? Forget your past, drop the native thing, you’re Americans now…A little offensive isn’t it?

          • Jerry

            What the hell are you talking about? Scandanavians are still scandanavians. Indians are still Indians, although that is usually not the preferred term. And Vikings are scandanavians who sailed overseas to pillage and conquer. All Vikings were scandanavian. Not all scandanavians were Vikings.

          • Will

            Not all Indians were warriors but that’s how they’re portrayed on sports teams.

    • The little leprechaun would be offensive, perhaps, to other leprechauns. Know any?

      Now, if there was a picture of an actual Irish person, maybe with a sweatshirt and sitting in his own vomit with a Jamison’s bottle used as logo, you might then be closer to an apt analogy.

      The Viking logo doesn’t really reflect an outrageous characteristic of actual norwegians . OTOH, I would be unable to describe — other than blonde hair — any characteristic that would work on a logo since failure to take a last piece in the company kitchen, and passive aggressiveness doesn’t lend itself to graphic design.

      These of course all the usual defenses we hear for racist logos apologists and mascots and with each passing year, they get a little more lame. So I guess that’s a sign of progress, if glacial. At some point they’ll either get smart or get irrelevant.

      Meanwhile, I’m sure the crowd that went to DEFCON 1 last week because someone called them “white” will be weighing in any minute now.

      • Jerry

        And considering the demographics of Minnesota and Notre Dame, it’s scandanavians and the Irish who chose and endorsed those names and logos.

      • BTW, if you believe the Irish are somehow showing us some behavioral restraint because of a leprechaun, consider six words: “Jesse Ventura”, “David Letterman”, “Drunken Irishmen.”

    • Jerry

      Are you actually offended by the Fighting Irish or hypothetically offended?

      Also, Viking isn’t the name of a people, it’s the name of a vocation, like pirate or buccaneer.

    • KTN

      “Isn’t the Vikings logo just as offensive to some groups of people?”
      Maybe to the Visigoths, or the Huns, but probably nobody else.

      • Will

        North Umbrians, Parisians, Mercians and Wessexians would beg to differ. The descents of the Vikings are clearly still around…as I am one of them.

        • So anyway back to the Wahoo and only the Wahoo without consideration of anything else: What do you think?

          • Will

            It’s an old logo of its time, could use an update like the wolves logo received.

          • Jerry

            i think they should find something else Cleveland is famous for besides having an unfortunately named baseball team. Like having a surprisingly combustible river. The Cleveland RiverFlames. Which sounds like a minor league team. Or a midrange steakhouse

          • lindblomeagles

            While Chief Wahoo isn’t the ugliest logo around, it is racist. I do appreciate the original artist’s intent to make Chief Wahoo seem good natured and high spirited rather than the usual tired fierce caveman depiction teams used to make their Indians look and sound. The problem I’m having with teams like Cleveland keeping the logo is that if you really honor and treasure all the Native Americans sacrificed, fought for, and stood for, then DO SOMETHING BEFORE EVERY GAME to acknowledge that. After the National Anthem, sing a Native American anthem. Hold a moment of silence for Native people. Put a monument in front of the stadium with a list of contributions Native American Indians gave to the United States and the world. STOP PRETENDING YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING EXCEPT KEEP THE OFFENSIVE LOGO.

    • Ralphy

      I won the bet!
      Thanks Will!

    • lindblomeagles

      Although Bob got us back on the RIGHT track with Chief Wahoo, your point about the Minnesota Vikings and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, along with the Boston Celtics, IS VALID. The NFL and NBA has much diversity on their team roster and in some of the coaching ranks. The Nordic Viking, however, doesn’t really reflect the Vikings’ actual diversity, nor does the Boston Celtic. In the case of Notre Dame, Fighting Irish also doesn’t illustrate much diversity, and the name of the school, itself, is French, not Irish. I think you’ve persuaded me on this one Will. Thanks for the introspection.

      • Let me try again to get you back on the right track. For the sake of argument, let’s say the logos for the Vikings , Notre Dame, and Celtics are racist.

        What does that then have to do with the validity of the assertion that the Wahoo is racist and should be changed?

        • lindblomeagles

          Thanks for the great question Bob! I used the wrong word to describe the Vikings, Notre Dame, and Celtics. INCLUSIVE is a better word for these three, whereas Wahoo really is clearly racist. The Viking is a blond, white, wise looking, old guy. There’s nothing racist about him. His image, however, reflects SOME of the athletes and coaches on the team, not all of them. The same is also true of the Celtics. The Celtic is an old, kind of affluent looking, white guy who loves basketball. There’s nothing racist about him either. His image represents some of the diversity on the team rather than all of it. I think Notre Dame is a Leprechaun, and Leprechauns are a fictitious European creation representative of Ireland if my history is correct. My reference to Notre Dame is about their name “Fighting Irish” itself, not the logo; that it’s interesting a school named and started by French missionaries chose the image of drunken Irishmen for its teams’ names. Think of it this way Bob. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers originally had “Bucco Bruce” on the side of their helmet, a cartoon character. Bruce represented sun-tanned pirates of a French and Spanish descent. The logo itself wasn’t racist, but it also wasn’t very inclusive either, particularly since some of the world’s famous pirates were English. The pirate flag, with a skull, swords, and a football, is more inclusive than Bruce, such that, you get the feeling that everyone, like me, is a Tampa Bay Buc!

          • BJ
          • I think the best indicator that Chief Wahoo is racist is the defenders are mostly unwilling or incapable to defend it without pointing at a leprechaun.

          • lindblomeagles

            More importantly, Notre Dame’s OFFICIAL LOGO ISN’T A LEPRECHAUN. It’s the letters N and D and a three leaf clover. Pretty menacing, huh? One more point to your point. Baseball’s Atlanta Braves’ official logo was a laughing Indian with one feather up too. They changed the logo around 1990, ending the use permanently of that racist figure head. Today, their official logo is Braves in cursive with a hatchet underneath it. When teams want to make positive changes, they can, and at any time.

          • lindblomeagles

            Thanks BJ for the information. To Bob Collins’ point, while the OFFICIAL mascot of Notre Dame is a Leprechaun, the ACTUAL NOTRE DAME LOGOS are either the letters ND or a three leaf clover. Unlike the Cleveland Indians (Minnesota Vikings or the Boston Celtics), Notre Dame DOES NOT publish an image of somebody’s race. Again, thanks BJ.

    • Tim

      The most offensive thing about the Vikings’ logo is that it perpetuates the horned helmet myth.

      • Will

        Well and the myth that they made it here…

    • crystals

      Well, Vikings (and Patriots, for that matter) are not races. They are specific types of white people – largely considered to be historic in the context of their namesake sports teams – who are heralded for their strength.

      American Indians are a living people indigenous to this country. They had their land taken from them, promises from our government broken time after time, and were pulled from their communities to be educated in white schools that cut their hair and attempted to strip their culture from them. Thanks to this historical legacy, they are suffering from unspeakable poverty and generational trauma that manifests itself in painful and harmful ways.

      After all that, they are largely caricatured in modern society thanks to things like mascots and popular culture’s depictions of them.

      That’s how this is different.

  • Pundit456

    It is not nearly as difficult as teaching critical thinking skills and common sense.
    “Nothing” is universally offensive; even within the same demographic; so that words and or images are essentially innocuous unless and until someone “chooses” to take offense.
    A choice to take offense says more about the way a person feels about themselves than about the words or images alleged to offend.
    People who allege that certain words or images are racially offensive to a racial group to which they do not belong are simply exploiting that group in service to their own agenda; not unlike the CBC exploits Blacks for its political aspirations and its foundation.

    • Jerry

      Your Al Jolson halloween costume must be amazing.

      And I never knew Canadian television was exploiting anyone.

    • Don’t reel Jerry in too fast. Let him run.

      • Jerry

        Only enough slack to make a wiseass comment.

        Some people are trolls. Others try to be billy goats (to mix troll metaphors)

    • lindblomeagles

      Apparently Pundit wants join Sean Spicer, and be as incorrect about history as Spicer was. When Adolf Hitler called the Jews names, Pundit, that had absolutely nothing to do with how the Jews felt about themselves. Hitler’s names for the Jews was about POLICY, the legal right to do and say whatever they want to a human being because they are superior, or, had the force to codify dominion over somebody else. Our society did the same thing with respect to the Native Americans. We called them all these names you claim have no meaning because IT WAS POLICY, the policy that the white owned and controlled United States HAS DOMINION over the Native American. Today isn’t much different. We, as a country, are certain Latin immigrants are here illegally and Muslim immigrants might become terrorists. It is OUR POLICY to remove them, as the Washington Post reported today, because WE HAVE DOMINION over them. Words IN POLITICS are never solely about somebody or some group’s opinion. They ARE ALWAYS INTENDED TO SHAPE POLICY. Judging from your CBC reference to Blacks, Pundit, I’m pretty sure you already knew that.

      • Pundit456

        You present a very good illustration of the point I was making.
        Americans are indigenous to the United States of America and are therefore “native” to this country.
        Using the term “native American”, as a euphemism for Indian, to make a racial distinction between that group and unqualified Americans is not only racist, it also denotes inferiority.
        Therefore a valid case could be made that your use of the term is as offensive as the logo. However, it would not justify prohibiting you from using the term if in your opinion it is innocuous or an homage to that group.
        None of what you said justifies depriving the owner of a team his right to use whatever symbol he chooses for his team; but your inflammatory rhetoric is obviously intended to obscure that fact,

  • MarkUp

    There was a redesign the Tribe contest a publication put out there. Like other redesign contests, I’m sure it will go nowhere, but it is interesting to see what fans come up with. The winner here was the Cleveland Spiders, which looks slick, but I don’t really get what spiders have to do with Cleveland. I like how the Guardians theme tied the team to the city.

    What do you think the new logo should be?

    • The Spiders makes sense because that was one of the original names of the team (the team had about 10 diffeent names through a half dozen different incarnations).

      • MarkUp

        I didn’t know that. Thanks for sharing!

        • theoacme

          As the Spiders, Cleveland set the record for worst record in a major league baseball season, in 1899, at 20-134…

          …makes the Twins’ recent futility seem not so bad, doesn’t it?

  • Erick

    All through the playoffs last year I was hoping that some play by play announcer would have the guts to call them the Cleveland Wahoos not the Indians. Repeating the offensive name over and over would make the racism obvious – at least to some.

  • lindblomeagles

    First, all professional sports teams change their logos (and sometimes their names) when it is in their financial interest to do it. Whether you think Chief Wahoo is or is not racist, the Cleveland Indians are feeding you garbage when they say they can’t do much about it because their fans love the image. The Tampa Bay Rays, when it comes to baseball, come to mind. They DITCHED their sting ray for a baseball diamond and a sunbeam a few years back. This year, the San Diego Padres, changed their logo (for the umpteenth time) and colors. Their now blue and white with the letters SD appearing in a circle that is supposed to represent a baseball. As a matter of fact, if you visit Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos on the web, you can see the numerous logo, uniform, and cap changes teams have made through the years. If the Indians wanted to, they could, and given they haven’t been to a World Series in decades, they probably SHOULD change the logo because Chief Wahoo ISN’T WORKING.

    • BReynolds33

      I will preface this by saying I completely agree with your point. That said… They were in the World Series last year.

      • I think the sentence you meant to write was, “They blew the World Series last year.”

        They were also in the World Series in ’95 and ’97

        • BReynolds33

          I’ll leave that to the fans. Ha!

      • lindblomeagles

        Thanks BReynolds33. Cleveland also went to the World Series in 1997 as well. Throughout their history, they’ve won the World Series twice, 1920 and 1948.

  • dave

    The OWNER gets to make the call if and when to change logos. Advertisers get to decide where to spend their money. We’ve tried to convince the owner and got nowhere.

    Time to try the advertisers.

  • MikeB

    Q: How hard can it be?

    A: As hard as the team makes it.

    • Mike Worcester

      My answer was to be — Not very if you want it to be. Same difference 🙂