Washington (AFP) – Major League Baseball (MLB), under pressure from Native American groups, announced Monday that the Cleveland Indians will stop using the “Chief Wahoo” logo of a grinning American Indian from next year.
MLB commissioner Robert Manfred said he had determined it was no longer “appropriate” for the team to use the logo, deemed offensive by some Native Americans.
The team has used the cartoon depiction of a red-faced American Indian since 1948.
The logo has been phased out over the past few years in favor of the letter “C” but players continued to wear caps featuring Chief Wahoo for home games and it appears on uniforms as a shoulder patch.
Manfred said it would be eliminated entirely from the start of the 2019 season.
“Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity throughout the game,” the commissioner 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,” Manfred said.
“During our constructive conversations, (Indians owner) Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a longstanding attachment to the logo and its place in the history of the team,” he said.
“Nonetheless, the club ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball.”
Dolan, the Indians owner, said that while many fans have a “longstanding attachment to Chief Wahoo,” he was “ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.”
The Indians are the latest US sports team to change their logo or name following criticism from Native American groups.
Many US colleges have dropped Native American names in recent years, but one high-profile professional team — the Washington Redskins of the National Football League — has repeatedly rebuffed calls to do so.
The Change the Mascot campaign launched by the Oneida Indian Nation welcomed the move by MLB and the Indians, and urged the Redskins once again to change their “derogatory” name.
“The Cleveland baseball team has rightly recognized that Native Americans do not deserve to be denigrated as cartoon mascots, and the team’s move is a reflection of a grassroots movement that has pressed sports franchises to respect Native people,” Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter said in a statement.
“Cleveland’s decision should finally compel the Washington football team to make the same honorable decision,” Halbritter said.
“For too long, people of color have been stereotyped with these kinds of hurtful symbols — and no symbol is more hurtful than the football team in the nation’s capital using a dictionary-defined racial slur as its team name.”