Last year, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that he intended to speak with Cleveland Indians ownership about their use of the Chief Wahoo logo. Manfred then said that he had spoken to the Indians brass, and he called those meetings “productive.”
Now the Indians brass has spoken, and they appear to be saying, not so fast.
In a radio interview with WAKR 1590, Indians Owner Paul Dolan confirmed that discussions with the league had indeed taken place. Yet, he cautioned that the Indians views of Wahoo might not be “exactly aligned,” with MLB’s. Though, he remains optimistic that some “middle ground,” will soon be found.
“We’re not exactly aligned on its future,” Dolan told WAKR. “But we will come to some understanding some time relatively soon, meaning before the start of the 2018 season and maybe sooner than that.”
What it exactly means, to be “not exactly aligned,” remains an unknown. Do the Indians want only a partial phase-out? Do they want a chance to design a kinder, gentler Chief Wahoo? Dolan’s comments don’t shed a ton of light on the future of Cleveland’s iconic mascot.
However, it’s also hard to see how Commissioner Manfred doesn’t eventually get his way in this situation. MLB recently awarded the Indians the 2019 All-Star Game. It’s very likely that move was, at the very least, a sweetener, to get the Indians to come to terms on Wahoo. It also gives MLB something to threaten to take away from Cleveland should they refuse to a deal on Wahoo.
Dolan continued, “There’s a lot of pressure on the national scene. We may live in a little bit of a bubble in terms of how we see Chief Wahoo and if you didn’t grow up here with it and you don’t have that emotional attachment and you look at it more objectively, you can see reason why some might offended by it. And the commissioner is feeling that pressure.
“Frankly, we were—are—on a path towards further mitigating the use of it, trying to find the right balance. We are Clevelanders. We have that relationship with Chief Wahoo that so many do, but we’re empathetic to those who find some reason to be offended by it. But at the core, we do think there’s some validity to that.”
There’s no shortage of “if’s” and “but’s” in that statement. Though, there’s no mistaking Dolan’s sense of resignation, to the idea that the fate of Wahoo has already been determined. Now all that remains is for the Indians and the palefaces in the league office, to work out the terms of surrender. Something that has never ended well for the former.