Why I'm Ready to Let Chief Wahoo Go
Opinion by Justin Lada
This is not a piece I thought I'd ever write. I've gone through pretty much every emotion of it to this point and I had determined a while ago I was so sick of the debate that I wasn't going to even comment or acknowledge it anymore. So, I'll make one last definitive statement about it from my perspective
The end of Chief Wahoo is coming. And I'm OK with it. I'm not necessarily sure I'm advocating it needs to go or that it needs to stay. I'm probably more on the side of it should go.
It might be time for Chief Wahoo to become part of Cleveland baseball history not only because of the racist feelings it elicits to those who oppose it, but because the argument needs to end.
It's been a louder and louder argument over the last four or five years, quite possibly due to the Indians success. It was hard to miss controversy last fall when the Indians made that memorable World Series run. Right around the time the ALCS with the Toronto Blue Jays, the articles on ending Chief Wahoo became rampant thanks in part to a Canadian lawsuit about the logo that ultimately failed.
That was one piece I couldn't stand. The timing of the lawsuit was frustrating and the source was even more frustrating. But the timing was well planned because it was going to get a lot of attention during the ALCS, baseball's final four.
So even as the Indians made it to the World Series, there were articles written about the logo trying to push the issue.
Now, coming into a season where baseball writers across the country are trumpeting the Indians as one of the best teams in baseball with a legitimate chance to win the World Series this year, those same propping up articles are met with an equal volume of "get rid of Chief Wahoo" pieces. So half the pre-season attention around this team was just as much the issue of its logo as it was its World Series chances.
The MLB is giving Cleveland the All-Star Game in 2019. When that was announced, of course it came with articles denouncing Chief Wahoo and hoping it would be done before that All-Star game. Some even thinking that the franchise and the MLB had a backdoor handshake to get rid of the logo in exchange for the game
You've probably heard the story once or twice that the club is named in honor of Louis Sockalexis, the game's first Native American ballplayer. That was the story I was told growing up and continues to believe for years until better evidence was pointed out to me. There is research to prove that the history of Chief Wahoo comes from a place of racism. Even before it was the Indians logo, it was considered a racist caricature.
Its creator and possibly the idea of Chief Wahoo and naming the team the Indians was supposed to be a thing of honor. But Louis Sockalexis was treated poorly in his time in Cleveland. He had a lot off issues off the field, but by the media and fellow players, he was treated extremely poorly. The name of the team came from a newspaper contest, perhaps with the idea it would honor Sockalexis, who was one of the most talented players of his era but could not overcome many of his issues, namely alcoholism.
You can go ahead and use the weak argument that these are just SJW pieces or that it's "fake news" but the history of Chief Wahoo comes from an ugly place in the history of the team. If your argument aside from the racist feelings it has created is the history of the logo and that it's "been around forever," that's just as weak.
You know what else was around for a long time? Mumps and polio. But thanks to science and modern medicine, they're mostly gone today, thankfully. Is that a broad analogy? Maybe. But just because something has been around forever doesn't mean it's always good or right. Science and information help us to evolve and learn new things that we never knew were true years ago.
But because something's been around forever means we should just stick with it, even if it's wrong? That's a pitiful argument.
I'll even admit my own hypocrisy as I write this. I own and have owned a lot of Chief Wahoo memorabilia. I've been going to Indians games since 1995 and have owned a lot of different apparel, so believe me, for years I resisted the possibility of a change in logos. And even though I understand it's history better, I haven't de-Chiefed or dumped it. I still even wear it. I've taken it off around a few people I know who aren't a big fan of it because I'm empathetic.
Will I get rid of my Chief Wahoo stuff? Probably not. So yeah, call me a hypocrite. Fine. I probably am. I'm not perfect. I don't shove my Chief Wahoo gear in the face of those who don't like it. It's part of the club's history and always will be, even if t is removed from visibility. I don't think anyone in the Indians front office is racist because they still have the logo, even with reduced visibility these days. They're walking a the hard line between long time fans and those are offended by the logo. And even though it probably looks bad that they have to consider profits in their decision to keep the logo around in whatever capacity, it's an unfortunate reality of the situation.
But ask yourself if you Cleveland baseball fandom truly hinge on the name and/or logo? If you've been an Indians fan for a long time, you sat through some truly awful baseball from the 1960s-1980s. So horrible baseball wasn't enough to drive you away, but losing a logo that members of a certain heritage find racist is what the final straw is?
That's the wrong hill to die on. As someone who has been a fan of baseball since I was 6 years old, it absolutely would never live or die a logo that has any rooted racist issues. And if yours does, then maybe you need to reevaluate things or maybe you were never that die hard of a fan in the first place.
There's no reason to let this argument mar what could be another extremely special season for this club and eventually, the All-Star Game. The constant argument and pleas to get rid of the logo need to stop overshadowing this current team and franchise. The way to do that is to find a logo that's acceptable. I don't know how you do that without getting rid of the name as well, but luckily that's not my call. But at the end of the day, this will be the decision of Major League Baseball and the franchise will at least have a scapegoat and they can let it fade that way. There's just no real good argument anymore to keep it.
Whatever the case may be, I'm finally ready to let go of Chief Wahoo and if you're a real fan, you will too.
POSTED 04/18/2017 15:30