Major League Baseball is making major news while most sports fans are focused on the NBA Allstar draft and the Super Bowl. The Cleveland Indians have decided to remove the “Chief Wahoo” logo from all their branded material come the 2019 season at the urging of MLB’s Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred, who cited goals of diversity and inclusion in his statement. This logo dates back to 1948, when it first appeared on Cleveland’s uniforms and has taken on many forms since then. The removal will be an adjustment for many, as fans have developed a certain attachment to the imagery and paraphernalia that will no longer be available for purchase on the Major League Baseball website.
The removal comes at a time where other teams are considering making a few changes as well. In light of the Cleveland decision, Phillip Yenyo, the executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio, has also called on the Atlanta Braves to remove their imagery and change their name, although no action has been made to do so. Conversations have been swirling around the Washington Redskins mascot and name for years. Colleges and universities are also making motions to change names, images, and mascots from there teams.
As I began to take a deeper dive into this removal, I couldn’t help but to cheer on Cleveland and the Commissioner’s leadership around this issue. This has been a topic of discussion in recent years and the sensitivity that it creates for organizations such as the American Indian Movement of Ohio is a leading indicator as to why this is necessary. They are, hopefully, trend setters, and eventually others will follow.
I do not, however, agree with waiting until the 2019 season to make this transition official. Why not now? Why wait a full year to make a change that should take place more immediately? 365 days is enough time for leaders to reconsider decisions, for laws and other judicial actions to be implemented, as well as for fans to build up a big enough case to stop the change from becoming permanent. Waiting until the next season suggests that they are not fully committed to the transition.
Additionally, if they decide to remove the logo, then they should also change the name. Why not fully commit to a vision of inclusion and to shifting the culture? By changing the name along with the logo, MLB and Cleveland would show that they are actively working towards a more inclusive organization and setting a standard of removing institutional barriers—and that they are willing to be bold and take big steps in doing so. I think 2019 will be a transformational year in sports, but I am hoping to see change now, in 2018.