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Antagonists of the 62-year-old logo of the Cleveland Indians view it as a disgraceful, racist image of Native-Americans. Why would one of MLB’s oldest teams embrace this logo?
Allow me the privilege of guiding you through our journey in history.
Here’s an excerpt from the team’s history page on MLB.com describing how it became the Indians.
“The Naps lost a then-franchise record 102 games in 1914 and attendance sank to disastrous lows as the Lajoie era in Cleveland came to a close. Lajoie’s departure, following the 1914 season, prompted a name change for the Cleveland franchise. On January 17, two Cleveland newspapers (The Leader and The Plain Dealer) reported that Indians had been chosen to replace Naps. The Plain Dealer said, ‘President Somers invited the Cleveland baseball writers to make the selection. The title of Indians was their choice, it having been one of the names applied to the old National League club of Cleveland many years ago.’ When Chief Sockalexis first arrived, baseball in Cleveland suffered an abrupt downturn in fortune. Now, the Indians would rise to glory with a new owner and star player.”
Below is the 1946-50 logo for the Indians.
It was later changed in 1951 to Chief Wahoo, the team’s mascot, pictured at the top of the post. Remember: images like this were common in newspapers and political cartoons in the ’50s.
Wahoo has been the center of Native-American race debates for decades. Similar debates are being had today with the Washington Redskins, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Chicago Blackhawks, Golden State Warriors and much more.
In 2002, after several years of Native-American protests, the team decided to change its logo to the letter “I” and six years later to the letter “C” as shown below.
Most people viewed Chief Wahoo as a stereotype. This is their comparison to other ethnicities.