Dolan Calls Removing Chief Wahoo "Hardest Decision" As Indians Owner
Indians Chair & CEO Paul Dolan said the decision to remove Chief Wahoo from the team's uniforms beginning in '19 was the "hardest decision we've had to make during our entire ownership," according to Terry Pluto of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Dolan said that the team will "keep their nickname" despite losing the logo, and indicated that the club "struck a fair compromise" with MLB. Pluto notes fans can "wear Chief Wahoo items to the games" and there will be "no Chief Wahoo police harassing fans at Progressive Field." Some Chief Wahoo items will remain "for sale at the park," as the Indians "didn't want to lose the merchandising rights and create a black market where anyone could legally do anything they wanted with the logo." The franchise has "felt the pressure from different groups," and now, MLB, to "change the logo." Dolan said there has been a "long dialogue" with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's office about Chief Wahoo. He said that Manfred at one point seemed to want Chief Wahoo "gone ... period." Dolan: "Then he came around to understanding its relationship to the community and the team." He added Manfred "never" threatened to pull the '19 All-Star Game out of Progressive Field if the logo did not disappear. Meanwhile, Dolan said the franchise is "adamant about keeping the name Indians" and Manfred is "similarly supportive of the name." Dolan: "The Commissioner is not troubled by the use of the name. We are confident the name will continue on." (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/30). In Cleveland, Paul Hoynes notes Manfred has been the "driving force behind the removal of Chief Wahoo from Indians uniforms" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/30). MLB Network's Tom Verducci said he feels like there was some "negotiating going on" around the timing of the move, as Manfred "did not want protests outside the All-Star Game in 2019" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Net, 1/29).
DECISION YEARS IN THE MAKING: Hoynes notes the logo has been a "flashpoint for the team for several years, drawing criticism and lawsuits from Native American groups who consider it racist." Chief Wahoo in various forms has been "worn on Indians uniforms" since '47. The Block C and script Indians "will be the team's main logos" after this season (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/30). The AP's Tom Withers noted the Indians have been "transitioning away from the logo for years" amid "growing pressure to eliminate Chief Wahoo." In addition to introducing the Block C insignia, the team has "removed signs with the Wahoo logo in and around Progressive Field" (AP, 1/29). The Indians "might explore creating a new complementary logo in the future" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/30). In Columbus, Rob Oller asks, "Did they only cave because of pressure applied by Major League Baseball? Did they fear the protests that likely would occur with Cleveland hosting the 2019 All-Star Game? Probably, but so what? Give me results over good intentions any day" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 1/30).
IS THE NAME GOING NEXT? In N.Y., David Waldstein reports talks about "ending the use of the logo did not include deliberations over changing the name of the franchise, though opponents have also sought that over the years." Many schools and universities have "changed their nicknames away from representations of American Indians." While getting rid of Chief Wahoo will be "applauded by opponents, some may see it as only the first step toward the ultimate goal of changing the team name" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/30). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes it was a "coup" for Manfred to force Dolan to "shed the racist and offensive logo." Nightengale: "Dolan insists there are no plans to change the team’s nickname, but hopefully that will occur one day, too" (USA TODAY, 1/30). In Cleveland, Bud Shaw writes, "The name never struck me in the same way 'Redskins' does, but I'm sure some would make a passionate argument for eliminating the name, too" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/30). In N.Y., Evan Grossman writes the removal of the logo is a start," as MLB's "heart is in the right place." Manfred and MLB "should be applauded for the move." Now it "remains to be seen" if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can "wield as much power righteous power and get their Washington franchise to remove the racial slur from their name" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/30). In St. Louis, Jose de Jesus Ortiz writes the decision to move away from Chief Wahoo "took a few decades longer than it should have." Ortiz: "For now, let's celebrate because Manfred has finally pushed Cleveland into the 21st Century" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/30). In Toronto, Richard Griffin writes, "This move is progress, but a closer look shows more can be done" (TORONTO STAR, 1/30). In Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty writes, "So long, Chief. The ballclub will be just fine without you. Better, actually" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 1/30).
CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION? A Cleveland PLAIN DEALER editorial states that the Indians "acted wisely" in retiring Chief Wahoo, as he should have "made his exit years ago." The decision was a "brave move by the Indians organization" and by Dolan, as fans "loved the Chief" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/30). In Toledo, David Briggs writes, "Give the Indians credit for (finally) making the right one." The team "did right here," as it was a "needed step forward" (Toledo BLADE, 1/30). However, THE RINGER's Michael Baumann wrote while "removing Chief Wahoo is as welcome as it is overdue," neither MLB nor the club "deserves praise for almost reaching a bare minimum standard of taste and decency" (THERINGER.com, 1/29). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote the removal was "far too late." This "isn’t about political correctness run amok." It is about "right and wrong" and is a "clear moral choice" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/29).
NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes, "On one hand, you want to applaud the Indians for taking steps to get rid of this divisive emblem." Then again, they "aren't really getting rid of it" completely. It feels like the Indians are "making matters worse by really not doing much at all" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/30). TBS’ Conan O’Brien noted the change comes after "numerous complaints from Native-Americans." O'Brien: "The Indians said, ‘We realized our mascot is really offensive and racially insensitive, so we're going to wait a year and then get rid of it” (“Conan,” TBS, 1/29). NBC's Jimmy Fallon: "They admitted that the logo is extremely offensive, so they're only going to wear it for 162 more games” (“The Tonight Show,” NBC, 1/29).