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The incremental marginalization of Chief Wahoo continues

Jun 4, 2012, 11:33 AM EDT

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I sorta think I’m not.  Check out the graphic from MLB.com’s draft page. Pay specific attention to the Indians’ avatar:

source:

Block C. When Wahoo is, as far as I know, still the team’s primary logo (The MLB Store calls Wahoo the “primary logo” anyway). None of the other teams have secondary logos as their avatar. It’s not like Wahoo wouldn’t fit, either. No, someone had to make the conscious decision to go with Block C and to do it for aesthetic reasons.

While it could simply be the work of a low-level web page designer with a conscience, I’m inclined to chalk this up to what I have chosen to believe is a subtle-as-all-hell, long-term move away from Chief Wahoo by the organization, designed to accomplish the bannination of his racist visage without ever triggering some sort of “you guys are a bunch of P.C. pansies” backlash.

My inclination may be delusional, of course. But if I’m not being delusional: bravo, Indians and MLB. And good luck with the stealth campaign, even if I am undermining it by mentioning it all the damn time.

(thanks to Dan Lewis for the heads up. Also: sign up for Dan’s Now I Know newsletter. It’s the best thing you’ll get in your inbox every morning)

  1. Old Gator - Jun 4, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    Talk about shameless product placement. Watch for the box of Wheaties unobtrusively sitting off to the side on Craig’s desk in the next CTB Extra.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 4, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      Not Wheaties! They’re “Fastball Flakes,” with Verlander on the box.

      Though, just out of the frame is my Pete Rose Wheaties box, which I should put on the set.

  2. Jason Chalifour - Jun 4, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    Craig, I did notice that going with the block C as the Cap Insignia may be the club moving away from Chief Wahoo, but in that graphic above it appears MLB is using all the club’s Cap Insignias and not the primary logos. The Rockies and Mets don’t have their full logos their either.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 4, 2012 at 11:52 AM

      Block C is the alternate cap too. Wahoo remains their main cap logo.

      • ThisIsBaseball - Jun 4, 2012 at 12:10 PM

        MLB has been using the Block C on the MLB at Bat app since the ’10 season I believe. Looks like they’re just using those logos.

    • hackerjay - Jun 4, 2012 at 2:29 PM

      They use the Cubs main logo, not their cap logo.

  3. mpescaro - Jun 4, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    The block “C” is the logo on the dropdown when you roll over “teams” from the home page, too. And I think you’re right. But I don’t know how the final stage of that evolution could possibly be as subtle. When the hats change from the famously, bizzarely eccentric Native American caricature to a “C,” fans may notice something is amiss.

    • The Common Man - Jun 4, 2012 at 11:56 AM

      Yesterday, the Indians wore the block C cap on a red hat and matching high red socks, which (I thought) looked great with their cream-colored uniforms. Wahoo’s still on the sleeve, but it’s getting better.

  4. The Common Man - Jun 4, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    Whether it’s an intentional move away from Wahoo or not, I’m just happy not to have to look at a leftover racist caricature that nobody bothered to throw out.

    • woodenulykteneau - Jun 4, 2012 at 12:01 PM

      Not sure why you brought up Rupert Murdoch, but… okay.

  5. mkd - Jun 4, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    Craig, I think I’m actually being serious when I say that you should stop reporting on this. If the Cleveland front office is up to what we think the Cleveland front office is up to then bringing attention to it only makes their job harder. The less said about the slowly disappearing Wahoo the better- otherwise you risk sparking exactly the kind of debilitating controversy they’re trying to avoid.

  6. Jeremiah Graves - Jun 4, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    I’m not gonna lie, the block C is solid and the uniforms they’ve moved to in recent years as sexy as hell with the old-school look and feel to ‘em.

    I don’t give a rat’s ass if it’s a subtle-PR move or just a change of pace for the marketing department, I think the new look is a million times better and something I’d be far more willing to wear into public.

    Save Chief Wahoo for re-runs of Major League and memories of Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle and a young Manny Ramirez, I’m all about Cleveland’s new look.

  7. savocabol1 - Jun 4, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    So having the team named after native americans is offensive. Would you consider Yankees offensive then? It is, afterall, a derogatory term to refer to americans.

    • The Common Man - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:10 PM

      No, you’ve missed a couple key points here. For one thing, we’re talking about the mascot itself (Chief Wahoo), not the team’s nickname (Indians). For another, the Yankees have always been owned by white Northerners who chose that name to describe themselves and their team. No Native American has ever owned the Indians and the logo (a racist caricature) was designed by a white artist.

      And before anyone brings up Lou Sockalexis, let’s a take a moment to acknowledge that that story has been debunked as complete bullshit.

      • Old Gator - Jun 4, 2012 at 3:04 PM

        Not only that, but you take hatred of the Borg out of the game and what do you have left? Feelies fans and croquet, that’s what.

  8. ih1357 - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    The block C hats won’t last. Just like when they tried to go to the script i.

    It’s a damn shame they’re giving into the BS of trying to get rid of the Chief.

    Long live Chief Wahoo!

    • Jeremiah Graves - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:41 PM

      You’re right, blatant racism for life!!

  9. ezthinking - Jun 4, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Still haven’t seen one credible description of why Wahoo is racist. Lots of white writers and one Indian lady that protests the first game every season, but no real proof of racism.

    BTW, as I have said many times before on this website, I live in Indian country with real Indians and have never seen nor heard any complaints about the name or logo. Now the healthcare and economic opportunities available on the reservations are another, and real, story.

    • The Common Man - Jun 4, 2012 at 4:04 PM

      First, I agree that healthcare, access to food, and economic opportunities are incredibly important on reservations. However, that doesn’t mean that this issue deserves to be ignored. So, what would you consider credible, ez? Here’s what I wrote in a previous comment thread:

      “It’s a big grinning red face (it actually used to be browner, and with a more exaggerated hook-like nose). And this face is meant to represent the concept of “Indians”. There’s a long tradition of Native Americans being portrayed in overly simplistic and stereotyped ways, just as there is a tradition of mocking African Americans with grinning sambo, mammy and Topsy caricatures. You can see this in the Indians in traveling Wild West shows and circuses (where they were often played by whites, in the same way that Amos and Andy were white guys in blackface), Disney’s Peter Pan (“What Makes the Red Man Red”), and in kitsch figures sold across the American West (http://uncleeddiestheorycorner.blogspot.com/2008/09/thoughts-about-indian-caricatures.html). It’s part of that same history, and is a reflection of the offensive stereotypes that created it.”

      Now, having explained that, do you think I’m wrong? If so, why?

      • ezthinking - Jun 4, 2012 at 4:28 PM

        I would say you still have not explained what the derogatory stereotype is.

        I would agree that the face is meant to represent the concept of Indians – it’s a logo, that’s what logos do.

        Why is a smiling face derogatory? If I was playing baseball or even at a ballgame I would be smiling too.

      • The Common Man - Jun 4, 2012 at 5:21 PM

        I didn’t say the stereotype was derogatory. Just offensive. “Asians are all good at math” isn’t a derogatory stereotype, necessarily (although, I imagine the Asian kids who aren’t good at math might view that differently), but it’s equally wrong in the same way it’s wrong to depict African American women as cartoon mammies or men as sambos.

      • ezthinking - Jun 4, 2012 at 5:40 PM

        The use of the caricature is what makes it offensive if its not readily apparent, as in this case. If Wahoo was obviously drunk I could see the offensive nature of it.

        Sambo – a good kids’ story that has nothing to do with race but rather a boy tricking some tigers to avoid being eaten- had it’s illustrations taken and used for racist purposes. That is unfortunate for the author and illustrator. Wahoo, has fortunately not met the same fate.

        In sum, we’ll have to just disagree.

      • The Common Man - Jun 4, 2012 at 5:58 PM

        I think you need to actually research the term sambo, before assuming I’m talking about a kids’ story. In the words of Indigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Yes, it was originally a childrens’ book, but it came to mean something much more insidious than that.

        Moreover caricatures have been consistently used to attempt to dehumanize people of minority races in the eyes of the dominant culture. Wahoo is part of that tradition, given when it was designed and who it was designed by.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jun 5, 2012 at 10:27 AM

      Absolutely Ez!
      As I have stated many, many times on this site…I was married to a Native American (1/2 Commanche & 1/2 Kiowa). I was immersed in their culture.
      From Dancing in Pow Wows (very fun…a blast actually), to eating homony on a regular basis
      (shit has zero taste…much like I would think eating styrofoam would tast like), to visting reservations…to accepting their beliefs in the nunnappe (troll like creatures that live in river bottoms)…and their beliefs in the Deer Woman (1/2 Woman & 1/2 Deer). Totally immersed in their culture. They absolutely LOVE The Redskins nickname, the Braves and the Indians.
      They loved their mascots and actually rooted for these teams as a result of the mascots and aforementioned nicknames.
      This issue hear is being continually dredged up by guilt ridded white dudes.
      ATTN: Guilt Ridden White Dudes
      If you feel guilty…DONATE MONIES!

  10. jerseydevi1 - Jun 4, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    I have to say, I am not sure about the racist claims either. I grew up looking at Wahoo. I am a Yankees fan who bought several Indians hats over my lifetime because I like the Wahoo on the hat. He’s an Indian playing baseball. What’s not to be happy about?

    As far as the Yankees being derogatory, The team was re-named the Yankees in 1913 based on an old New York Press writer calling them the Yanks, or Yankees because it looked better in his headlines. Interestingly, the team was officially the Highlanders when that happened, but most newspapers called all American League teams Americans back then. i.e., Boston Americans, New York Americans. As far as the actual term “Yankee” it depends on where you are in the world. Most Europeans consider Americans Yanks or Yankees, whereas in the US Yankees are generally thought of as people from States that fought for the North during the Civil War.

  11. kmgannon - Jun 4, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    I’ve been a Tribe fan for 30+ years (and I’m not even from Cleveland!). I’m also a History professor, and I can tell you that, no matter how it’s spun, the Chief Wahoo logo is a racist caricature. Now, I’m not saying the original designer said “hey, I hate Indians, so let’s make an exaggerated racist caricature of one for our logo!.” Rather, it reflects the pervasive, casual racism towards Native Americans that still exists even today. It was part of the climate–and for the real impact, google the *original* logo, complete with yellow skin and crooked nose. Put a yarmulke on it, and it looks like the worst anti-Semitic product of 1930s German propaganda.

    It’s not for the dominant culture to judge what is racist, so much as it is the group that’s being depicted. One can say “I don’t see how it’s racist,” but be ignorant of the larger racism faced by Native peoples. But to press the argument is like saying “some of my best friends are _____; I don’t see them discriminated against.” That may be anecdotally true in your immediate case, but it does not mean that racism has been magically erased.

    The “Sambo” archetype has a much deeper history than the story referenced above–it was a product of slavery, and the cheerful, compliant (on the surface) slave was referred to as “Sambo” by approving whites. And a label such as “Yankee” is a different deal. It’s a nickname, not an epithet. Chief Wahoo is different than me calling my buddy “shorty.” It carries a ton of historical baggage with it, and no matter how we try and say it’s just a harmless cartoon dude, it’ll never put that luggage down. That’s the key point here. As Abe Lincoln said, “We cannot escape history.”

    Of course, he also said something about quotes on the internet or something like that, from what I hear. :)

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