This January has been outstanding for Major League Baseball. There have been a plethora of players to win awards for their work on and off the field to begin the new year. Unfortunately, not all MLB stories this month have been welcomed with praise. On Jan. 29, the Cleveland Indians decided to make a dramatic change to the team uniform. For the upcoming season Paul Dolan, the owner of the team, decided it was time to remove Chief Wahoo, the beloved logo of the Indians, from their uniform.
If you follow professional sports, you will have understood this was coming sooner or later. There are a handful of other professional teams — the Washington Redskins, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Blackhawks — who are also having similar issues regarding offensive images being used to represent each city’s team.
The Indians were the first team to follow through and give in to the ongoing protests involving professional sports team logos and will be using the block C moving forward. The block C has been part of Cleveland’s uniform for the past four seasons and will now be used as the new team logo.
Now that the Indians have decided it is time to make a move and remove the infamous Chief Wahoo from their uniforms, it is likely we will see a few more teams make similar changes.
The Ohioan in me is sad to see a logo like Chief Wahoo go, but I believe it is time to realize what these logos are. Professional sports teams are more of a business than anything else, and their logo is their brand.
At its core, I feel this was a business-oriented move by Cleveland. These teams are making millions of dollars every single year, and being linked to the offensive use of a symbol does have a negative connotation at the end of the day. It could hurt the bottom line, and affect the reputation of their brand.
It is unlikely a team would ever make a move like this during the season, but, now that the NFL season is over, I believe we will see a few changes in the NFL market as well. It was only a matter of time before a team felt the pressure from the people surrounding lodging complaints. Now with one big change within professional sports, within the next two to three years, I feel all of the aforementioned teams will make a change to their logos as well.
This is not the first time an MLB team has decided to change logos or team names. In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays made a change to their team name in an attempt to bring a fresh new identity to their franchise. The team shortened their name from the Devil Rays to the Rays in an attempt to distance themselves from their past as a generally unsuccessful ball club.
As far as this rebranding for the Indians, the block C has been a popular alternative for several years now, with celebrities like Kid Cudi — a Cleveland native — wearing the logo in music videos for years. Despite this rebranding though, the Indians are still going to be selling fan gear with the logo on it. If they are going to make a move as drastic as removing this logo from their team uniform, the sale and production of this logo should also be stopped, and the re-branding made complete
It will be interesting to see how the Chief Wahoo logo recedes into history. It has always been a staple of the community of Cleveland and the state of Ohio. It is a logo that will be missed and remembered by Cleveland fans who were around for its hay day, like when the cult classic “Major League” was released in 1989.
Considering the circumstances and changing public opinion, this move was absolutely necessary. And, more generally, this decision points other professional sports organizations in the right direction. I find it hard to believe that other teams will continue to use logos that are considered offensive after a decision like this. I believe we will see more changes within the first few months of the NFL offseason regarding the same issue of logo use, and perhaps in the NHL, too.