Indians to stop using Wahoo logo starting in '19

January 29th, 2018

CLEVELAND -- A point of contention for some and beloved by others, the Chief Wahoo logo will be removed from Cleveland's uniforms beginning with the 2019 season.
On Monday, Major League Baseball announced that the Indians will discontinue the use of the divisive logo on their uniforms after the 2018 campaign. The decision was made mutually by MLB and the team, which had been working together to come up with an appropriate timeline and solution to the issue, as it gained steam in recent years.
• Indians' Chief Wahoo logo Q&A
"Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "Over the past year, we encouraged dialogue with the Indians organization about the club's use of the Chief Wahoo logo. During our constructive conversations, [Indians owner] Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a long-standing attachment to the logo and its place in the history of the team.
"Nonetheless, the club ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball, and I appreciate Mr. Dolan's acknowledgement that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course."
MLB and the Indians opted to have the Native American caricature removed from the on-field uniforms next year, but the logo will still have a limited retail presence in Northeast Ohio and Goodyear, Ariz. In order to maintain control of the trademark, ensuring that another group could not seize it and profit, the Indians needed to retain some level of retail involving the logo.
Cleveland may consider adding a new complementary logo in the future, but it will focus on the Block C as the primary symbol for now. There are no plans to change the team's name.
"We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion," Dolan said in a statement. "While we recognize many of our fans have a long-standing attachment to Chief Wahoo, I'm ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred's desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019."
The decision to remove the logo on the Indians' uniforms next year coincides with Cleveland hosting the 2019 MLB All-Star Game, which was awarded to the franchise last January. The Indians have indicated that MLB did not force the team to remove the logo in order to be granted the right to host the Midsummer Classic. Cleveland's pitch to hold the event began years ago, and it became a strong focus during the team's postseason run in '16.
During the 2016 American League Championship Series between the Indians and Blue Jays, the logo and team name were thrust to the forefront in a legal battle in Toronto.
Douglas Cardinal, an advocate for indigenous people, filed a request for an injunction with the Supreme Court of Justice in Toronto in an effort to block the use of the name and logo during the games at Rogers Centre. That initial request was rejected, but the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled in June that an Ontario court could hear the case. In December, MLB lawyers argued that such a case should be heard in Canadian federal court.
Prior to the 2014 season, the Indians began the process of gradually moving away from the Chief Wahoo mark, designating the Block C as the team's new primary logo. The secondary logo continued to be used on some home caps, as well as a sleeve patch on the club's uniforms. Last season, the Block C replaced the other logo as the sleeve patch on MLB's holiday-issued uniforms.
Imagery similar to Chief Wahoo can be traced back to use in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in the 1930s, and the team used different versions of Native American-themed logos throughout its early history. The Chief Wahoo, which evolved over the years, was originally created in 1946 by the late Walter Goldbach, and it did not appear on Cleveland's uniforms until '47.
Since becoming MLB Commissioner in 2015, Manfred has been open about the desire to work with Dolan and the team on finding a solution for the logo situation. Both sides worked to find a resolution that respected those offended by the caricature, as they heard the arguments of those in support of the historic logo and also found a way to keep the image's rights out of the hands of another party.