On Chief Wahoo

April 30, 2012

Last week Scene magazine, Cleveland’s alt-weekly tabloid, published a cover story entitled “The Curse of Chief Wahoo” by Peter Pattakos of the website Cleveland Frowns. The story, which is well worth reading, raises the question: shouldn’t the Cleveland Indians organization rid itself of this symbol, one which is offensive to a great many people, especially the native Americans whom it is ostensibly intended to honor?

IPL co-owner Stephanie Liscio addressed this issue last year in a post for the ESPN SweetSpot. Her verdict: yes, yes, of course Wahoo should be retired. She concluded her post with these words: “There‚Äôs visible discomfort with the continued use of this image, and there would be no harm in removing Chief Wahoo and retiring him for good.” I agree completely.

Chief Wahoo was part of my childhood, but then again so was listening to people of my parents’ generation casually refer to people as “wops,” “kikes,” and “shines.” In the last generation or two, this country has made great strides toward reducing racism. Bidding goodbye and good riddance to Chief Wahoo would be another step in the right direction.


  • Marcus Bales says:

    It doesn’t ‘beg the question’ it raises the question. Begging the question is a very specific thing, and that’s an outstanding example of how to use it wrong.

  • Josh says:

    Absolutely not. That’d be like asking the Cleveland Browns to change their name because that could possibly be offensive to the few people who care. You can’t change the entire face of a franchise because a few protestors sit outside the gates on opening day. If all the Cleveland fans bled red, blue, and wahoo, we may actually have more than 9,000 fans every game.

  • pengo says:

    By your logic, Josh, because there are so few Native Americans, it is all right to insult them. If only there were a very small number of African-Americans, you could also enjoy using the “n” word without shame or fear of social repercussion.

  • Vern Morrison says:

    Regarding Marcus’s comment: My first reaction upon having my grammar corrected is to take umbrage. My second reaction is to see whether the suggested correction has any merit. When it does, my third reaction is to correct the mistake.

    Marcus, you’re absolutely right. Thank you for calling this error to my attention. I’ve edited the post.

  • Josh says:

    There’s a difference in this logic being pointed out. Chief Wahoo is a cartoon character that’s not directly insulting anything. The “n” word is a derogatory term that is directly used towards a certain race. Are you going to make looney toons never air because Elmer Fudd makes fun of “Hillbillies”?

    • Josh says:

      I’m going to end my discussion with this. The point is; you’re never going to please everyone. Someone is always going to see something as being offensive while other people disagree. The world will never be rid of things that offend certain people. If you tried to change everything that offended people, there would be no recognition of anything because everything would be constantly changing. For a team who can hardly afford a $65,000,000 team, you can’t just take away the entire face of the franchise. They would lose millions in merchandise sales, as well as brand loyalty and brand recognition.

      For instance: When you go to a game, how many people do you see with the new C on their hats? Maybe 5% of the pople would be my guess. I have probably 5 hats all of which have Chief Wahoo, and one that has the C on it which i never wear. There’s ultimately a bigger picture here than just a simple logo.

  • Rob says:

    Josh, it sounds like you’re saying that the economics of the situation outweighs the self-respect of the most oppressed group of people in this nation’s history. While I have mixed feelings about the use of the logo, this reasoning is scary. Additionally, I don’t think retiring the use of Chief Wahoo diminishes the worth of the franchise. The team would still own the legal rights to the logo and, let’s be honest, no one outside of Northeast Ohio or people that are already Indians fans are rushing out to buy Chief Wahoo merchandise anyway. Regardless of whether or not those people recognize the new logo with the block C, its still the same revenue to the team.

    My mixed feelings with the logo come from a disconnect that my mind has created over time. When I see the logo, the only thing that comes to my mind is baseball and the team I love. To me, the image is so cartoonish that it takes a conscious effort for me to connect it with a group of people. I’m still having difficulty determining whether that is actually worse, as it may be totally marginalizing their existence.

    • Joel says:

      Each one of you have a valid point, the two worth mentioning; you will never make everyone happy and as Josh says the fact that when I wear my hat I do not think of all the things this group of people had to go endure. However when I take the time to think about it, it becomes more than just a logo. Come on! The team name is the Indians, by having the logo I see it more as a tribute than a derogatory term, symbol or name. I represent a minority group( not african american) and beyond politics, economics and cultural issues there is the individuality and democratic rights we have as a nation to voice our opinion and our choices. If you feel it is offensive don’t buy the hat with the Wahoo logo. I guarantee even if the branding changes completely, just like you still see fans wearing Alomar’s jerseys from almost 15 years ago, Fans will still wear what they find pleasing to them regardless of how you and me feel about Wahoo. That is why we are a great nation. We enjoy the priviledge of having options and the right to determine which one of those we’ll go with.

  • Swift says:

    I’ve thought for a while that it was time to retire the Chief. I thought the Indians actually were going to do this several years ago, when the started using the C again on the caps.

    I don’t think he is the biggest insult on the planet to Native Americans, but he is inappropriate. Though I wear my Indians gear all over the planet, I actually make a point of wearing Chief Wahoo free gear outside of this area, particularly where Native Americans are more common (like out West).

    And frankly, he is kind of old and retro looking, but not in a good way. It looks like something left over from the 50s (which he is). Time for a 21st century look already.

    So take the Chief off of the player uniforms, maybe even off the merchandise. If you want to wear your old Chief gear to the ballpark, that’s great, I know I will, at least till I wear it out.

  • Joe says:

    Would it make sense to retire Wahoo but keep the Indians name, or would people be looking to completely rename the team?

    • Swift says:

      I’d vote to retire Chief Wahoo, but keep the Indians name. I’d actually strongly oppose changing the name

  • Brenden Lowery says:

    Personally, although I am one of the biggest Indians fans on the planet (self proclaimed of course), I feel as if a logo change would be for the better.

    Call me crazy, but I tend to REALLY overanalyze a sport’s teams logo. Perhaps it is the fact that some teams are modernizing their logo’s, but for some reason, I just do not like the look of most of the older, retro logos. My exceptions are the Braves (power blues uniforms and cursive A’s), Blue Jays (love the retro jerseys this year), and the Orioles (love the retro bird logo!). The Indians logo to me is just outdated. As someone said earlier, it looks like a logo left over from the 50′s.

    As pathetic as this may sound, for some reason I believe a team identity change comes with a logo change. Think in recent years several sports teams that have changed their logos and experienced success- Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Lions, Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I know of course most of that has to do with the players on the teams, but sometimes shedding that identity of the past is a good thing. Cleveland did not exactly “kill it” with these logos, finishing in the bottom of their division many times in the past 50 or so years. So, why not change?

    I also do not think there would be much uproar if Cleveland decided to stop using Wahoo and instead use only the block letter C. A modernizing of the logo and uniforms can be a good thing, and true Indians fans would realize that.

    Lastly, DO NOT get me started on the Browns logo. I am a die-hard Browns fan, but our “logo” (if you even want to call it that) of an orange helmet is awful. It is painful to look at. Why don’t we put a bulldog on the side of our helmets and call ourselves the Cleveland Bulldogs? It would pay homage to the dawgpound!

  • Matthew says:

    Brenden I totally disagree with your point that there wouldn’t be an uproar if they changed the logo. Chief Wahoo is part of this team, it’s history and what all Indians fans have grown up with. Cleveland is a city that is proud of it’s past and its sports history, why change the logo from a historic picture to something new to please a small group of people when the vast majority likes it? Honestly the world is becoming too politically correct now a days and really should not change things that have been around for decades just to try to make everyone happy, which will Never happen.

    • Drew says:

      Matthew, have you conducted a survey or found one that shows that the vast majority like the logo? I would be surprised if that was true. If you had suggested “indifference”, I would not be typing this right now. I live in Virginia and every now and then, I see a person wearing Indians’ gear. Usually it is the “C”. I like the “C” better at this point, but really am overall indifferent to the logo.

      Josh’s point that economics works against the desire to change the logo is actually false. As a product or brand matures, the original marketing becomes less effective. This is why marketing campaigns change and why brands refresh their designs from time to time. A refresh of the logo may actually cause merchandise sales to spike since consumers would like to have the newest thing.

      • Josh says:

        If you took away the 3 stripes of Adidas or the Swoosh of Nike, and replaced it with a N and an A, no one would know what the brand was and therefore would not buy that item. Brand recognition is a huge part of sales and success of a brand. If you see a hat with a C on it (In which no one wears, i was at the game friday and wahoo always heavily outweighs the C) It could mean a bunch of different things. Ie. Columbus, Cincinatti, Chicago, Cleveland, or anything htat begins with a C for that matter. The Chief Wahoo logo sets the team apart from any thing else that begins with a C. And to the outdated part, how is it outdated compared to the really boring/outdated look of the C or the D in detroit or the NYY or NYM in new york. And to the comment that no one is rushing out except in northeast ohio, that’s not true. I live in what would be considered a “pittsburgh” sports area, and i see red, blue, and wahoo everywhere around here.

  • Graham says:

    http://tadhg.com/wp/2010/11/04/racist-american-pro-sports-team-names/ …that is a link to the sports teams in pro sports with “racist” team names.

    I don’t know any of you personally. I’m a 22 year old college student at BGSU. I attended opening day and walked 5 feet away from these so called “protesters.” First of all, the comments made above seem to portray some sort of HUUGGGEE problem with the logo. When i walked past these protesters, there were 5 of them holding a sign, and one man video recording the people walking in….Sounds like a big problem right? I think not.
    One thing I’ve noticed from my generation compared to previous generations such as my parents, is that kids these days JUST DON’T CARE. No one cares or even thinks twice about the fact that our logo and team name could possibly come off to someone as hurtful or racist.
    This is professional sports. It’s one thing that actually brings people of all races and age groups together as one in this country. Not many things can do that. When you go to an Indians game, you go there supporting a team, not a race.
    Going back to what I said before about my generation “not caring,” I believe that with all the social media and the ease of getting one’s opinion out in the open makes a lot of arguments a complete waste of time. I’m sorry but changing the name of ANY sports team in Cleveland would only diminish the fan base more than it already is (And judging by all the green I’ve seen in the stands this year at the JAKE, I don’t thing they can afford that any time soon. So let’s all relax about the situation and not cater to anyone that has a problem with something. If we did that as a country We’d already have universal health care, but let’s not go there haha.
    To the comment above ^^^^, we were almost named the Cleveland Panthers, instead of the Browns. Which one would you rather have? No need to reply, I think I already know. Good thing we have a DAWGPOUND and not a LITTERBOX

  • Brenden Lowery says:

    To be completely honest, I do not believe that the native american population has been at an extreme uproar over the Indians logo, but more concerned with a logo such as the Washington Redskins logo.

    I just want to make two points here:

    1.) Matthew, I am not suggesting that the logo necessarily be changed JUST to please the native american population. I am in fact saying it should be changed to usher an a new era of Cleveland baseball. Aside from the 90′s, the Indians have not had much success while in this logo. I am not saying that teams should change their logo if they go through a rough decade, I just think that a permanent change to the block lettering could be for the better.

    2.)As said by a couple of posts above, this is indeed professional sports. The sports teams of Cleveland bring people together from all over the United States. If changing the logo would cause a fan-base to self destruct, why then have so many teams done it without any adverse effects (Diamondbacks, Rays, Lions, Cavaliers, Marlins, etc.)? I think that true fans would enjoy the Indians no matter what logo they decided to use. I still believe that Cleveland should be known as the Cleveland Indians, but a change to the block letter C would not hurt the fan base.

    Lastly, again, I just believe that the browns “logo” of the orange helmet is outdated. I would enjoy still being called the Cleveland Browns if the Browns decided to place the bulldog logo on the side of our helmets; however, the orange helmet logo alone just does not do it for me, thats all.

  • Jerry Greer says:

    Idiotic……do not change the logo. I am an American Indian and a tribe fan and I am inspired by chief Wahoo. This politically correctness has gone too far folks. Lets ban all references to Hillbillies, Southerns, Canadians, Catholics, and Hispanics. After that, I will retire chief Wahoo. Much ado about nothing…….

  • Grant says:

    So it’s okay to exploit birds such as the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Cardinals? Where are the protests from animal groups when the main article in the newspaper reads, ” Astros Slaughter Tigers,” “Brewers Beat Up on Cubs” and so forth ? Why is this behavior okay? Just because animals can’t talk? Chief Wahoo IS the Cleveland Indian. So if you get rid of Chief Wahoo, rename the team.

  • Braden says:

    Honestly this is just ridiculous, first it is the team mascot then it is the team name. Where will it end? The Cleveland “Native Americans”? Honestly everyone is too sensitive nowadays. Americans today just look for anything to be offended by, well I am offended by the thoughts of changing one of the oldest teams in baseballs’ name. It has to end now.

  • Chris says:

    I live in California and chief wahoo hats are easily in the top ten if not top five hats worn by younger people ages 18-30 and many just like the hat and have no relation to Cleveland. If you get rid of the chief to appease on culture then your offending a cherished icon of another culture. I’m very liberal and I think the us gov. Is responsible for reparations to the natives but I just don’t see how forcing a team to change a mascot is going to make a difference.

  • Chris says:

    I live in California and chief wahoo hats are easily in the top ten if not top five hats worn by younger people ages 18-30 and many just like the hat and have no relation to Cleveland. If you get rid of the chief to appease one culture then your offending a cherished icon of another culture. I’m very liberal and I think the us gov. Is responsible for reparations to the natives but I just don’t see how forcing a team to change a mascot is going to make a difference.

  • Jerry Greer says:

    Bidding goodbye and good riddance to political correctness would be another step in the right direction…

  • Matt says:

    I think a good compromise would be once the Tribe wins a World Series title as the Cleveland Indians, we retire the chief and (possibly) the name. I think they should revert back to the Cleveland Spiders or Cleveland Naps or something else. As much as I like the name and logo (and it pains me to say it), it is probably time to move on.

  • Mike says:

    I’m really bothered by people who use the term “politically correct”. When I see that, I just assume that you are upset because you can’t publically be a biggot without being shunned. Why is it so wrong to ask that all people be treated with respect? I don’t see how a logo that represents the way the settlers thought of the natives is a tribute. As big of a fan as I am, I still feel disappointed that my favorite baseball team uses a name and logo that would be offensive to a great many people, if they hadn’t all been slaughtered and/or run off their land. Why not just call a team the “Wops” with a guy who looks like a mobster as the logo. That’d be okay, right?

  • kenb321 says:

    I was at the Arch in St. Louis a few weeks ago. I realized I was touring the Great Expansion Museum, which tells of all the horrible things the settlers did to the native Americans, while wearing a Chief Wahoo fleece jacket. It made me very conscious of the logo.

  • Graham says:

    for anyone that has a problem with offending people with logos or what not…..I certainly hope since we’re talking about alllll people as you insist, that you dont own one piece of NIKE, ADIDAS, REEBOK, NEW BALANCE, ETC., because I know you know about sweatshops…and that’s happening NOW! not 250 years ago