After decades of protests and apparently, years of behind the scenes negotiations, the Cleveland Indians and Major League Baseball have agreed on a solution to what many view as the offensive Chief Wahoo logo. The Tribe will stop wearing the logo on its uniforms and hats beginning in the year 2019. Cleveland fans have already been watching the use of the logo diminish over the past several years, being replaced with a block “C”. Do these changes, however, really mean the end of the logo? The short answer is no.
The team will retain the rights to the logo, and in fact, can still sell merchandise bearing the Native Indian caricature. Merchandise, however, will only be sold in Cleveland. The team apparently successfully argued to the league that the logo was an important part of its brand and history, at least on a local level. How exactly merchandise will only be sold in Cleveland in this internet-connected world is hard to imagine, however. So, while the long-used logo will disappear from player’s hats and uniforms, it will still be prominent at Progressive Field. Sale of merchandise also allows the team the ability to retain a copyright on the logo.
The team was actually named in honor of a Native American player but the logo has been criticized for being insensitive. It may be interesting to see if a similar approach to potentially offensive logos and team names may be taken in other sports and leagues.
The bottom line is that rather than banning the Chief Wahoo logo, it is more like it is being sent to stand in a corner in Cleveland. In the short term, it may actually become more popular as a result. It at least seems to be a creative solution that allows MLB to get out of an uncomfortable situation while keeping the Indians and some of their fans happy.