I consume baseball in the most Americana way imaginable. I listen to it on the radio in the summer Midwestern night surrounded by cornfields. In the orange streetlight, moth fluttering nights that refuse to drop below 80. I own a cleaning company and while you are at home winding down your day I am vacuuming and dusting and taking out trash and cleaning toilets and listening to the Chicago White Sox not make the playoffs since 2008. It’s easy to picture me. If I was a character in a Stephen King novel I would surely be the first to get knocked off by a vampire or a clown.
For this reason, most of the visuals of the game are lost to me except when I can tune in on weekends. This is one visual I will certainly not miss.
The New York Times is reporting that the Cleveland Indians, in cooperation with Major League Baseball, are abandoning the Chief Wahoo logo after the 2018 season.
I live fifty miles northwest of Champaign-Urbana and its resident University of Illinois, so I had a mezzanine seat to the Retire the Chief / Save the Chief hullabaloo, which is still going on to this day. The Chief is a sort of local MAGA hat that we’ve had for decades. If I walk into a business or an office that’s festooned Chief stuff, I know the kind of person I’m dealing with upfront. A friend who witnessed the mascot’s formal retirement in 2007–he worked for the local paper and the university–once let me look through his personal letters-to-the-editor Chief file. They ranged from sedate and prosecutorial to spittle-flecked. I liked this:
Unfortunately, all that pageantry was built around a product of the rather odd obsession white people had with their view of Native American culture nearly 100 years ago. Too bad we are still saddled with the decisions of an assistant band director who was just trying to put on a good halftime show. If he had simply chosen some other kind of symbol to be the focus of all that audience participation stuff, we wouldn’t be dealing with this mess today. Can you imagine!
But forsaking the revolting Chief Wahoo logo is more complicated than it appears on the surface. Let’s Go Tribe goes on to say:
It’s interesting, but not surprising, that the Chief Wahoo merchandise will still be sold in local markets. According to Jordan Bastian, this is in part because the Indians still maintain a trademark for the logo and are required to keep it in retail spaces to do so.
“The Indians will maintain control of the Chief Wahoo trademark. In order to do so, it will still have a limited retail presence. No retail presence would open door for another party to seize control of the mark and profit from it.”
Not only will they keep the trademark, but the flood of people who support a logo over their favorite baseball team will likely flock to buy up whatever they can. Make no mistake about it, the Indians are going to keep profiting off the logo for a long, long time.
So either the team profits on its heritage of racism or some third-party does. Short of the team donating those profits to a reservation, there are no good choices here.