What About Wahoo?

The Indians home opener always means two things…people will be taking the day off work, and groups will be protesting the Chief Wahoo logo.

100_4019As Clevelanders, we are at the forefront of this controversy while being in the middle of it all, a cyclone whirling around us as we watch the battle being fought.

Growing up in the city, we associate Wahoo with the team rather than an offensive figure.  Wahoo has been in use since the late 40s, so most fans have lived only with that image.  The majority of fans going to games are there to support their home team, not in a meditated attempt to degrade a people.

When I see the Chief Wahoo logo, I see Cleveland baseball rather than an accurate portrayal of Native Americans.

Is Chief Wahoo insensitive?  Yes.  Is it a symbol of hatred?  I don’t think so.

The logo is a product of its time, when caricaturing was common.  Look at Disney’s Peter Pan (released in 1953, two years after the current Wahoo design) with its “What Makes the Red Man Red?” scene, full of similar looking cartoon Indians.

Not that that makes it any less insensitive.  I understand why Native American groups are upset.

Re-branding for sports teams isn’t uncommon, so the possibility is there for a Wahoo-free future for the Indians.  With the introduction of the block-C cap, it seems the team is at least considering a move away from Wahoo.

100_4014If they are to do it, I hope they do it in a way that keeps the Indians tradition, as the block-C does.  It has been used before in both the 80s and in the early years of Cleveland baseball.  Same goes for the script “Indians” the team brought back in the 90s, the original seen here on Bob Feller.

Baseball is a game of tradition, and so much tradition comes in the cap and the wordmark.  Think of the famous combos-Boston, the Yankees, St. Louis-easily recognized.  Caps of simple letters, and wordmarks left unchanged but for a few small modifications.

Simple as that.  The block-C and the script “Indians”, both already entrenched in our history, as the Indians “new” image.  If we still want a Wahoo sleeve patch, why not something like this, modernized and without the red skin to avoid one of the current Wahoo problems.

That said, we need to realize changing team logos or names will not solve the root problem.  Getting rid of Native American branded teams won’t make people less ignorant about the cultures.  And that isn’t as easy as sports re-branding.


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