NEW YORK – The Cleveland Indians will remove the smiling "Chief Wahoo" logo from their on-field uniforms beginning in the 2019 season, the baseball team said on Monday, in a concession to critics who have long assailed the image as a racist caricature.
In discussions spanning the past year, Major League Baseball, the sport's U.S. governing body led by Commissioner Rob Manfred, had urged the team to remove the logo even though many of its fans had wanted to keep it, according to a statement issued by MLB and the Indians.
"While we recognize many of our fans have a longstanding attachment to Chief Wahoo, I'm ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred's desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019," Cleveland Indians owner Paul Dolan said.
The team will still feature the logo, a smiling cartoon man with red skin and a feather in his headband, on merchandise sold in its stores in northeast Ohio and Goodyear, Arizona, where the Indians hold spring training.
The aim is to support the "connection" fans have with the logo, which the team has featured since 1947, said the statement on MLB's website.
Using the logo on merchandise will also allow the Indians to retain control of it as a trademark, the statement said.
The team may look into creating a different logo in the future, but will continue for now using a capital 'C' as its main mark, said the statement, which added the Indians had no plans to change the team's name.
At least one Twitter user thought the team did not go far enough.
"A new name would probably help them think of a new logo. What non-racist logo options are there for a team called the @Indians?" wrote @cookandsonbats, who described himself as a father and Seattle Mariners fan.
Marko Farion, a person describing himself on Twitter as an opera singer and dentist, criticized the move.
"This PC thing has gone too far," he said, using an abbreviation for political correctness.
The logo was at the center of a legal dispute in Canada when the team played the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2016 American League Championship Series.
Following an allegation that the logo was offensive to indigenous people under Canadian law, a judge ultimately allowed the team to display it while playing in Toronto.
The Cleveland baseball club is not the only North American professional sports franchise to have resisted calls for the removal of imagery depicting Native Americans. The National Hockey League's Chicago Blackhawks, the National Football League's Washington Redskins and MLB's Atlanta Braves have faced similar criticism.
"Cleveland's decision should finally compel the Washington football team to make the same honorable decision," Ray Halbritter, a member of the Native American Oneida Nation who leads the Change the Mascot campaign, said in a statement.