The Cleveland Indians are giving fans a preview of their new-look uniforms this week in Toronto by dropping the Chief Wahoo image from their hats and uniforms.
A team spokesman declined comment on why the team made a change for its final series at Rogers Centre this season, only saying that an MLB.com website story on the development was factual.
“Acknowledging increased sensitivity to the Chief Wahoo image in Canada, the Indians … opted not to feature it during this series,” the story said.
The caricature of a First Nations man was the subject of controversy during the 2016 MLB playoffs in Toronto. Indigenous activist Douglas Cardinal filed a human rights complaint federally and provincially against the Indians, MLB and Rogers Communications — the owner of the Blue Jays — trying to stop Cleveland from using the logo during the 2016 American League Championship Series.
“We were very pleased to see that the team decided not to use the logo at the game in Toronto,” Lenczner Slaght lawyer Monique Jilesen, who has represented Cardinal, said in an email to The Canadian Press.
Jilesen said the parties have resolved the human rights proceedings and the court application.
The logo is something that has long bothered Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro, who spent more than two decades as an Indians executive.
“I never said it when I was in Cleveland, but I struggled with Chief Wahoo from the day I got there in 1992 to the day I left,” Shapiro said Friday. “I was happy to see it consistently get diminished.
“I will shed no tears when it’s gone completely.”
The Indians announced plans last January to remove the logo from their uniforms completely beginning in 2019.
Chief Wahoo will return to the Indians’ uniforms on Monday at Tampa Bay and will remain for the rest of the season before being retired from on-field use.
Shapiro, who joined the Blue Jays in 2015 after 24 seasons with the Indians, played a lead role in establishing a block “C” as Cleveland’s logo. It replaced the cartoonish image of a big-toothed First Nations man with a scarlet face and single feather in his headdress.
Shapiro touched on the logo issue during an afternoon media availability.
“It doesn’t mean that much because I’m focused on the Blue Jays,” he said. “I guess there’s like a small part of me that kind of says, ‘Good. It’s about time.’”
MLB said the decision to scrap the logo came from the league’s commitment to “building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game.”
Longtime Blue Jays radio announcer Jerry Howarth, who retired in the off-season, made a point of not saying Cleveland’s nickname after a First Nations fan wrote to him explaining how hurtful the name and logo were to Indigenous people.
The Indians-Blue Jays series continues through Sunday.
The Canadian Press