Currently the Cleveland Indians are facing some pressure to do away with their Chief Wahoo logo, the popular logo of the current American League champions that features a smiley-faced red-skinned man. It's not uncommon for American Indians to be represented as mascots or in logos in sports in North America. Besides Cleveland the Florida State Seminoles, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Atlanta Braves, and several other examples could be brought up where a Native American group is represented in some way as part of a sports team.

But, common or not, whether it's right to represent aboriginal groups in North America as mascots or in logos is a different matter.

Yet the societal issue of whether or not it's okay to use a racial mascot or logo is one matter. Another simpler matter is that profit-oriented companies are going to want to avoid the controversial most of the time. It's this point of view that I take in regard to Major League Baseball's efforts to phase out the Cleveland Indians' logo.

Rob Manfred wants the logo's use phased out

David Waldstein recently described the situation regarding the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo logo in an article at NYTimes.com. Writing on April 12th, Waldstein stated that the Cleveland Indians "may have to wrestle increasingly with the issue of Chief Wahoo, the smiling caricature that has long been an Indians logo but has come to be seen as offensive and wildly outdated." Waldstein elaborates in stating that Rob Manfred, the current commissioner of Major League Baseball, is interested in phasing the usage of the logo out.

The situation with Cleveland is similar to the situation that the Washington Redskins have faced over the last few years. The Redskins, like the Cleveland Indians, are a North American sports franchise that features an aboriginal term as their team nickname. However, the situations do have a difference.

With Washington, it's the term "Redskins" that many have taken issue with, perhaps because emphasis on skin color is now considered more wrong than it had been at many points in the past. At present, the situation with the Cleveland Indians has to do with their popular logo as opposed to their team name.

In another similar situation from about ten years ago, the University of Illinois faced pressure to retire a Native-American-themed mascot known as Chief Illiniwek.

The roots of the blowback against businesses or institutions that use Native American-themed nicknames, mascots, or logos can probably can be attributed to a genuine desire to deracialize American society. It may not be inherently derogatory to use a Native American as a mascot or in a logo, however many in North America now find any kind of racialization affronting. It's the offputting aspect of racialization that Manfred may be reacting to.

After all running a successful business, like a sports franchise, requires being appealing to the public.

You could argue whether it's right or wrong to use Native-American-themed symbols or mascots in sports, but that's not a great point of view to take when it comes to business marketing. Getting rid of the Chief Wahoo logo might just be a case of the customer, the baseball consumer, not really liking Chief Wahoo anymore. As the old saying goes, the customer is always right.

Situation with Cleveland like Colin Kaepernick?

In this way the Chief Wahoo logo might be kind of like the situation with Colin Kaepernick. The former San Francisco 49er quarterback kneeled during the American national anthem during the 2016/17 NFL season.

Was what he did right? It may depend on the perspective you take. But from a business point of view politicizing a sporting event where people want to drink beer and have fun just isn't great marketing.

Kaepernick isn't exactly a hot commodity as a free agent and some claimed that the QB's protests hurt NFL ratings. In this way, I see the Chief Wahoo logo as a similar issue. If it's causing social-issue or political-issue drama then that alone would be a good reason for Mansfred to want to phase out the usage of the logo. That's regardless of the merits of the discussion of whether it's right to use racial-themed mascots or logos.

As other cases in point, I think that Mansfred's desire to phase out the Chief Wahoo logo is similar to some shows that were in syndication losing their air time. Remember in 2015 when "The Cosby Show" re-runs were pulled off the air? That was a needed business move to avoid blowback from the public amidst the Bill Cosby rape accusations.

Similarly, "The Dukes of Hazzard" was pulled off of TV Land due to the show's affiliation with the confederate flag and Dylan Roof's adoration of that flag.

Chief Wahoo, Colin Kaepernick's protests hurting his free agency marketability, "The Cosby Show," and "The Dukes of Hazzard" are all unique situations. Furthermore, I'm not going to debate, one way or another, the underlying issues with each situation. However, as I see it they all have in common at least one thing. There's someone with each issue that sees a threat to business.

The Chief Wahoo logo could affront people that don't like racialization. Colin Kaepernick's protests seemed to affront people that wanted football, not politics. "The Cosby Show" re-runs risked affronting anyone that saw Bill Cosby as a sex offender amidst the allegations that were made toward him.

"The Dukes of Hazzard" re-runs risked affronting people that were averted by the image of the confederate flag. If the customer is always right, then smart business marketing in the future will stick to the politically correct and the squeaky clean. From this point of view, the Chief Wahoo logo's days are likely numbered.

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