End is near for racist baseball mascot

Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland Indians racist mascot, is dead.

In truth, he’s been dying for a long time as the Indians have walked a fine line between angering its mascot-embracing fans and slowly transitioning away from its use. In recent years, the team has adopted an uninspiring block “C” as its official logo, but the Wahoo still appeared on the team’s uniforms.

Now, the New York Times reports, that’s going to end next year.

We’ve announced changes to our uniform for 2019. http://atmlb.com/2nowCFz

Posted by Cleveland Indians on Monday, January 29, 2018

So far, the Indians have been officially silent on the news, but the Times says baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has told it the chief is done for. And the team’s owner was quoted in a new release issued by Major League Baseball, rather than the team.

“We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion,” owner James Dolan said. “While we recognize many of our fans have a longstanding attachment to Chief Wahoo, I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.”

There’s less to the move than it appears.

The team will still be making money on the caricature. It will still sell souvenirs at the stadium and in retail outlets, but MLB’s website will no longer carry the items. That’s a start, but it hardly qualifies as shedding the mascot.

The Times says that’s to maintain the trademark rather than letting another entity grab it, although it seems unlike the team will lose a trademark if it chose not to sell merchandise with it.[update: See comments]

Still, it’s better than nothing, although it sets the stage for every game in Cleveland this year to be a protest against eliminating the mascot.

  • RBHolb

    “[A]lthough it seems unlike the team will lose a trademark if it chose not to sell merchandise with it.”

    Trademarks will be deemed abandoned if they are not kept in use by the owner of the mark. If a mark is abandoned, someone else could use it and, presumably, profit from it.

    Here ends my That Guy moment for the week.

    • So if they sold one keychain with Chief Wahoo at the Westlake Mall in the ‘burbs… that would qualify, right? They wouldn’t have to sell jerseys and hats at the stadium that people will wear to protest the end of wahoo, right?

      • RBHolb

        They would have to keep selling merchandise in some manner. A mark is presumed abandoned if it is not used for three consecutive years. Keychains at a few obscure malls could serve to keep a mark alive, as long as it was more than someone coming in once every three years to buy one.

        • jon

          hows about as a ticket validation mark that is only visible under uv light?

          • RBHolb

            It’s intriguing, but I doubt it.

      • fromthesidelines21

        The University of North Dakota has some experience here.

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/02/19/north-dakotas-fighting-sioux-nickname-is-banned-except-when-it-isnt/?utm_term=.1d92f37114de

        From my observations at some recent hockey games at UND the crowd still uses the former Nickname in their cheers but the enthusiasm is starting to fade a little. It will take time but eventually it will be silly to still be cheering for something that doesn’t exist.

    • crystals

      Is it the trademark for that logo, specifically? There isn’t an overarching Cleveland Indians trademark that would protect it? (I obviously have no idea how trademark law works.)

      It’s kind of strange that they are acknowledging it is racist and needs to be retired, but aren’t willing to get it go out of fear someone else will make money from it.

      • RBHolb

        There would be separate registrations for the logo, the name of the mascot, and the team name (I’m guessing, without looking it up).

        The thinking may be (but probably is not) that retaining the trademark lets the club limit its use.

        • Jack Ungerleider

          Actually that was my first thought. If you let go of the logo, someone else can then start making merchandise with that logo and you (the Cleveland Indians) are fighting the fight all over again with no control. In my opinion the place to hide the logo is on some sort of yearbook. While it focuses on the current team, whose uniforms,etc lack Chief Wahoo, it would also contain articles on the Indians “storied” history that would include the Chief as part of hats and uniforms. Would placing the old logo in prominent place on the back cover of such a publication be enough to maintain it? Being on the back cover means it is not publicly displayed, but if it was obvious on the back cover, even as part of disclaimer about its presence in the magazine, would that be enough to show that the Cleveland Baseball team needs to be able to control the use of the logo in order to protect its history?

          • RBHolb

            I’m not sure. The mark has to be “used in commerce” in order to stay alive. If it’s just displayed as a historic relic, I don’t know if that would be using it “in commerce.”

            It would be the best solution, though.

          • Jack Ungerleider

            One last thought/question on this. Would the Indians be able to exert control over the unused mark because its use by anyone else would imply a connection to the baseball team? At sometime in the future this argument would no longer be valid, but for the next 10-20 years it probably would be.

          • RBHolb

            Probably not, since the team has made such a big deal out of discontinuing the mark. Anyone using it again could say that the team had already disavowed any connection.

            Good question! I had to think about it for awhile.

          • crystals

            Your move, Cleveland.

  • wjc

    Now if the Washington football team could get a clue…

  • Barton

    Good.

  • crystals

    A 20-year old Shania Twain lyric just popped into my head: that don’t impress me much.

    Yes, it’s better than nothing. It’s still nowhere near enough.

  • Rob

    Given that the mascot doesn’t sound like it’s going away, I respectfully suggest that the headline should read: “End is near for racist baseball mascot – NOT!”

  • John F.

    It may take some time, but you have to start somewhere. For one reason or another, people are touchy about their sports teams, even if the name or mascot is offensive or uncouth.

    Its almost like people attach large parts of their identity to sports teams. 😉

    • Jerry

      It’s like their self-worth is determined by someone else’s skills and success.

  • Gary F

    Maybe the Browns should take it up. It might help them win.

    • Jerry

      Because it has been so successful for the baseball team?

  • Peter Newman

    Not racist. Shame. Are the Vikings racist…oh that’s right their white skinned

    • Rob

      “Are the Vikings racist?” Not that most of us are aware. “Are the Vikings exploitative plutocrats?” Yup.

      //their white skinned//?
      Do you mean: //they’re white-skinned?//

    • Jerry

      Fun Fact: Vikings no longer exist.

      • I’m checking off the “template” for all discussion about the Chief. Let’s see, what’s next: Ah, yes, leprechauns, Notre Dame, and are the Irish offended?

        As an aside, I got a call from the Indians today because I bought a six-pack for the coming season. They wanted to see “if I had any questions”. I bought them months ago. Sounds like they’re trying to shore up the base after the announcement.

        • theoacme

          Is Cleveland’s official beer Bud Light? Dilly dilly!

    • >>Not racist. <<

      Oh, bless your heart. you probably believe that too.