Indians abandon "Chief Wahoo"
January 29, 2018 10:43 AM   Subscribe

The Cleveland Indians have agreed to remove Chief Wahoo from their uniforms, starting in the 2019 season. They'll continue to sell merchandise with the image, to help maintain their trademark.
posted by hanov3r (53 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
This makes me want to shout... hooray. It makes me want to shout hooray.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:49 AM on January 29, 2018 [7 favorites]


Though on second look, I note with some cynicism that by announcing they will get rid of the logo in 2019, they are both claiming the moral high ground and insuring one last year to sell as much racist Chief Wahoo bullshit as they can. "Get it while you can!" Etc.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:52 AM on January 29, 2018 [51 favorites]


jfc it took them long enough
i'm suspicious of this trademark maintenance argument, though. if you're no longer using the character, why do you need to keep your trademark? this just seems like a way to get a little less public criticism while keeping that ugly nonsense alive and profitable, having their cake and eating it too.
posted by halation at 10:54 AM on January 29, 2018 [13 favorites]


step 4 on a long ascent to reparations. welcome to the last half century of dialogue about overt racism, MLB
posted by runt at 10:54 AM on January 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


This is good...ish.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:54 AM on January 29, 2018 [8 favorites]


(for the reasons DirtyOldTown points out)
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:54 AM on January 29, 2018


My two favorite tweets on this so far and this one and this one. I do think that the Cleveland Spiders would be a better name.
posted by sleeping bear at 10:56 AM on January 29, 2018 [9 favorites]


if you're no longer using the character, why do you need to keep your trademark?

To keep other people from using it.
posted by anastasiav at 10:59 AM on January 29, 2018 [9 favorites]




I do think that the Cleveland Spiders would be a better name.

Having now read that article, I'm partial to "The Perfectos."
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:03 AM on January 29, 2018


About damn time MLB and Cleveland!

*looks at the NFL and Washington Redskins, taps watch*
posted by bawanaal at 11:05 AM on January 29, 2018 [27 favorites]


I naturally assume that none of the news sites carrying this story have comment sections oh look a squirrel!
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:12 AM on January 29, 2018 [9 favorites]


There could be good reasons for them to maintain the trademark. They can control it, and prevent the most offensive uses, and sue folks who try to use it after the phase out is done.

They could, for example, continue to use it but only on post-it notes that say "This is a racist logo {logo}" or only put it on the bottom of coffee mugs, with a little note under it that says in Cleveland font "We are so so sorry." Like, they could maintain their trademark that way, but also not really use it maybe?

But, obviously, that's not what they're going to do, and that's not the reason they want to keep using it. I'm just saying that, in a good world, there could be a good reason to maintain it.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 11:13 AM on January 29, 2018 [11 favorites]


I don't have a confirmed link on this yet, but I'm seeing scuttlebutt that they fully plan on continuing to sell the Chief Wahoo merch at the stadium, just not through the MLB site. Which leads me to believe they’ll make even more off of it because they’ll be directly wholesale manufacturing with someone.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:14 AM on January 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


About time. My alma mater, Miami University, used to have the same name as a DC-area sports team. We became the Redhawks after I graduated. I was never really comfortable with the old name (but not much of a sports fan), so it's nice I can get a plush bird to represent my school.

I live in Ohio. Needless to say, many of the comments are accusing the folks favoring this move of being "snowflakes." What's the over/under of POTUS tweeting about this?

i'm suspicious of this trademark maintenance argument, though. if you're no longer using the character, why do you need to keep your trademark?

I'll try to put a positive spin/non-evil spin on this: if they don't maintain the trademark, then random t-shirt shops can start selling stuff with the logo. It's similar to companies sending cease and desist letters to fans and homages: while they may not mind the love, if they don't pursue all trademark violations, they can't go after folks who are trying to trade on their fame.

While it stays alive in both scenarios, with MLB/Clevaland doing it, they can attempt to limit how much is produced and it's availability (i.e. if the only place to get it is in one gift shop inside the stadium only accessible during a game). If random shop starts selling a full line on the internet, they can go after it.

It all depends on just how they do it: enough to meet some minimum threshold to demonstrate they have an interest, or if they make it available with just a bit of effort.
posted by MrGuilt at 11:19 AM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


if you're no longer using the character, why do you need to keep your trademark?

Because if it lapses, anyone can use it, for any purpose. If the goal is to stop the continued offense of a racist logo, releasing it into the public domain won't do that. (It wouldn't actually be public domain; it'd likely still be copyrighted. But copyright offenses are a lot harder to prosecute, especially if the original isn't commercially available.)

It mostly looks like "we're going to remove it from most of the public view but keep it available to hardcore fans, for a premium price, of course." Not the ideal solution, but we can hope that, over time, ownership of special limited-edition racist fan gear won't be as much fun for collectors.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:22 AM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


Only one more year to get lulz out of my Caucasians shirt!
posted by phunniemee at 11:25 AM on January 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


It all depends on just how they do it: enough to meet some minimum threshold to demonstrate they have an interest, or if they make it available with just a bit of effort.

That, yeah. In terms of 'doing it well,' they could also opt to donate the profits from future sales, so that they're not actually profiting off the logo, even minimally.

Still happy news overall, for sure.
posted by cjelli at 11:26 AM on January 29, 2018 [6 favorites]


I didn't think it could get any better than the instant the last out in 2016 was made and Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series. But it turned out that as delicious as that feeling was, seeing motherfuckers in racist-ass Chief Wahoo gear in the stands sobbing uncontrollably made it that much fucking sweeter.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:29 AM on January 29, 2018 [31 favorites]


I'll try to put a positive spin/non-evil spin on this: if they don't maintain the trademark, then random t-shirt shops can start selling stuff with the logo.

They can only maintain the trademark by continuing to use it in commerce themselves. This is just about keeping what revenue there is in their own pockets.

I mean, I'm glad they're taking it off the uniforms, but let's not indulge in any fairy tales about why they want to maintain control of the logo.
posted by praemunire at 11:51 AM on January 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


> It mostly looks like "we're going to remove it from most of the public view but keep it available to hardcore fans, for a premium price, of course."
Yep. If they were actually serious about this, they could take the claimed approach of those who have applied for trademark ownership of swastikas and the n-word: create "licensed" uses of the trademark, then sell them for one million dollars each. Use the proceeds to benefit marginalized Native American communities.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 12:02 PM on January 29, 2018 [9 favorites]


100 years from now, Cleveland baseball fans will lament the century-long World Series drought that started with the removal of Chief Wahoo. The Wahoo Curse.
posted by aliasless at 12:14 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


100 years from now, Cleveland baseball fans will lament the century-long World Series drought that started with the removal of Chief Wahoo. The Wahoo Curse.

They haven't won the World Series in 70 years as it is.

Maybe they'll win in 2019 and then they can toast the end of the curse and reflect on how their karma might've turned earlier if they'd ditched the racist logo years ago.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:19 PM on January 29, 2018 [14 favorites]


For the curse to start now, they’d actually have to win something first.

Maybe this is why God hates Cleveland(tm)?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 12:20 PM on January 29, 2018


Prediction: Chief Wahoo caps will replace the red maga hats in 2020. Donald Trump will almost certainly be photographed wearing one in the next three years.
posted by mcmile at 12:22 PM on January 29, 2018 [8 favorites]


If you have seven minutes, enjoy this Cleveland/Indians/Chief Wahoo story from Snap Judgment.

(If not, it's the show's black host telling the story of attending a Native American dancing ceremony, and getting so into it that he took off his outer layer, inadvertently revealing a Chief Wahoo logo shirt.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:23 PM on January 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


Donald Trump will almost certainly be photographed wearing one in the next three years.

Likely while a speech to Native American veterans.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:43 PM on January 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


Really weird seeing a known mefite and one of my (non-mefite) coworkers on a twitter thread together.
posted by phunniemee at 12:55 PM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


Prediction: Chief Wahoo caps will replace the red maga hats in 2020. Donald Trump will almost certainly be photographed wearing one in the next three years.

Yeah, this is going to be the new symbol of stickin' it to the Libs.

I'm fully expecting the Republicans to run Chief Wahoo for Senate.
posted by PlusDistance at 12:56 PM on January 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


Presumably they don’t have to sell a lot of products to maintain their trademark. Maybe it’ll just be, like, a Chief Wahoo fridge magnet and that’s it.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:12 PM on January 29, 2018


phunniemee: Only one more year to get lulz out of my Caucasians shirt!

Pics or it didn't happen! Because I would love one of those myself, I bet.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:14 PM on January 29, 2018


Because if it lapses, anyone can use it, for any purpose. If the goal is to stop the continued offense of a racist logo, releasing it into the public domain won't do that.

There's no shortage of racist logos in the world. I could draw you a new one now, if I really had to. The idea that there's some benefit to keeping it out of circulation by, um, keeping it in circulation seems palpably ridiculous to me. Not to mention the fact that knockoff sporting merchandise using current trademarks is hardly some unheard of novelty. It's really going to make absolutely no difference to the amount of racist bullshit produced by third parties, while also ensuring that there's still an official source of racist bullshit.

The reason to stop producing an offensive thing is to stop producing an offensive thing. The idea that you need to play some n-dimensional chess, in order to do it properly, seems like purest apple sauce.
posted by howfar at 1:31 PM on January 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


Pics or it didn't happen!
I got it for the world series.
posted by phunniemee at 1:56 PM on January 29, 2018 [15 favorites]


The word around town is the logo is only going away so Cleveland can host the All-Star Game in 2019, which everyone can agree is a BS copout move. I am skeptical the team will stop selling the Wahoo caps as they are very popular with fans.
The organization could divert some of this nostalgia if they worked to create a new logo with some fan input. Maybe there could be a contest or something. Chief Wahoo is one of the most distinctive logos in sports; perhaps something new and distinctive could stop fans' grumbling. I refuse to buy the boring so-called block C hats they have on sale, C could be one of three cities in Ohio after all.
posted by greatalleycat at 2:06 PM on January 29, 2018


Well, you'll be happy to know that the good people of the Parma Area Buy Sell and Trade Facebook group have paused from their usual pastime -- accusing one anothers' merchandise of being from Big Lots -- long enough to declare their enthusiasm for the upcoming Keep the Chief rally.

(Parma is 93% white, if that's relevant.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 2:13 PM on January 29, 2018 [6 favorites]


I vote for the “Cleveland Steamers”

(Go Giants!)
posted by chavenet at 2:46 PM on January 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


Yeah, this is going to be the new symbol of stickin' it to the Libs.
posted by PlusDistance at 3:56 PM on January 29


"Stickin' it to the Libs" was the worst song the Doobie Brothers ever recorded.
posted by ZaphodB at 3:35 PM on January 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


Take note, Florida State University.
posted by Splunge at 3:57 PM on January 29, 2018


Florida State has what seems to be a positive relationship with the Seminole Tribe.
posted by mmascolino at 5:04 PM on January 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


halation: "i'm suspicious of this trademark maintenance argument, though. if you're no longer using the character, why do you need to keep your trademark? "

It's complete bullshit. You don't have to use a trade mark to maintain the legal control over a trademark.
posted by Mitheral at 5:26 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


They haven't won the World Series in 70 years as it is.

Hey, they got pretty close recently, illustrated by my "Windians" T-shirt, purchased when they were in the World Series last year.

Speaking of that World Series run, a lot of shops around here were selling vintage Indians gear during it, and I was horrified to discover that the depiction of Chief Wahoo used to be even more racist. I mean, now he's kinda cartoony, but in the 40s? Sheesh.

Anyway, they should drop the logo entirely, and the logo name (Chief Wahoo, really? Really?), and the team name at that. I can't support the Cleveland Steamers, or the Cleveland Spiders to be honest *shudder*, but literally any other name would be better.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:26 PM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I guess I should clarify that I find the current depiction of Chief Wahoo to be racist, so the fact that it used to be even more so kinda blew my mind. Like, this is the improvement? God, our society sucks.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:29 PM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


This alt-weekly cover sums up the "Curse of Chief Wahoo" pretty well. Now maybe he could do one about that Washington NFL franchise?
posted by Zonker at 6:14 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


The Indians will probably just stick with the block C caps they've been using for the last decade or so but as a Clevelander, I kind of want them to go back to the old wishbone C caps, if only because it would piss off Cincinnati Reds fans
posted by mcmile at 8:25 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]




I'm thinking they should go back to the Cleveland Naps, which I like on principle (who doesn't like naps) and was really pleasantly surprised is not a super offensive name.
posted by Cogito at 9:01 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


At UIUC Chief Illiniwek was banned, finally, thankfully. This was 10+ years ago. There are (white) students still running around CU griping about joyless liberals ruining a respectful symbol. This in spite of the fact they were like 9 when it was banned. I’ve been dismayed at the support it continues to receive. I hope things will be different with Cleveland.
posted by persona au gratin at 11:55 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


What's the opposite of a dot to commemorate a life? A middle finger emoji? Imagine one here.
posted by DigDoug at 4:45 AM on January 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking they should go back to the Cleveland Naps, which I like on principle (who doesn't like naps) and was really pleasantly surprised is not a super offensive name.

They really lucked out that their enormous star at the time had a name that actually made a decent team nickname. In another universe, they could have been the Cleveland Honuses.
posted by Copronymus at 10:32 AM on January 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have always wondered why the Cleveland Indians doesn't embrace the REAL Indians. Hear me out. They can use a cartoon of a South Indian Kudumi Brahmin as a logo. There is enough similarities between Cricket and Baseball to begin with. Cleveland is already a destination for South Indians because it has the largest Carnatic Music Festival every year. I say embrace Columbus' mistake and go all out. There is 1.3 billion Indians and you can be their team!

Every year for the beginning of the season, invite the local Indian community to do a Yagna. Start offering Samosa and Tandoori Chicken in the concessions. Start playing Bollywood music in the stadium. Have choreographed dances as a part of the promotions.

As a Cubs fan, I would jump ship in an instant!
posted by indianbadger1 at 11:34 AM on January 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's complete bullshit. You don't have to use a trade mark to maintain the legal control over a trademark.

Not quite. Unlike a copyright or patent a trademark has no expiration date (because unlike a creator, a corporation can exist well past one lifetime, but that brings up a whole different set of arguments I'm not going to get into here, trust me, this will ramble on long enough...). However, because nothing lasts forever, there has a to be a means by which a trademark can expire. The US Patent and Trademark Office (hereafter called the USPTO) has left this expiration and policing of the marks up the the occult hand of the free market to resolve. If a corporation decides to stop selling a product under a certain name, or quits using an old logo, and you decide you want it (quite rare, because most people want their own identity) you can petition the USPTO to declare a mark "dead" or "abandoned" and take over the mark. However, the holder of the trademark will be allowed to protest this ruling (assuming they're still around) and show that they still use the old logo or name and prevent anyone else from using it. This why many big, old, valuable brands (ie: Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, etc.) will still manufacture or sell a license to manufacture products (for instance: Harley Davidson T-shirts) with "vintage" logos. It serves two purposes: 1) it provides a second revenue stream 2) it shows use.

Two recent(ish) examples:

1) Chevron keeps a few gas stations in the US using the old "Standard Oil" mark so that no one may open a chain based on that same name. Note in this case they didn't actually keep the old logo, just the name. If you want to manufacture reproduction old signs using the old logo, you probably can, but if Chevron decides you're selling these signs exclusively to people who run gas stations and who sell gasoline under the name Standard Oil, you're probably gonna run afoul of a lot of highly paid lawyers.

2) Nabisco quit selling chocolate creme sandwich cookies under the Hydrox name, and another business bought the name and mark and is attempting to recreate the cookies. Note here, that he didn't get anything other than the right to use the name and mark, Nabisco doesn't have to turn over the recipe or any patents relating to the manufacture or creation of the cookies themselves. (Trademarks and patents and recipes lis another long-winded lecture for another time.)

The relevant laws and procedures for this are here. But I warn you, they are really dry and boring and I'm not a lawyer, and you will NEED A LAWYER to even begin to start this process. I also chose links that are at least somewhat readable to give a quick overview of the process and they are not to be taken as legal advice either. In fact this whole comment is a quick and light overview and look how bloody long it's gotten. Sheesh, this stuff is complex.

Finally, you should know that trademark, patent and copyright law is among the least understood sections of the US Legal Code, and much like economics, anyone who tells you they understand it completely is almost certainly lying.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:35 AM on January 30, 2018 [9 favorites]


Oh, and before anyone pops up to interject and remind me that you are supposed to file an extension of your trademark every ten years, previous challenges have determined that not only does refiling not automatically constitute use, but also that lack of filing doesn't automatically constitute lack of use either. See what I mean about lawyers? This article on the guy who likes to revive old brands delves into it slightly deeper than I'm willing to go here.

Ok, sorry for the interruption. Back to your regularly scheduled ballgame.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:01 PM on January 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


Copronymus: "They really lucked out that their enormous star at the time had a name that actually made a decent team nickname. In another universe, they could have been the Cleveland Honuses."

Brooklyn was at one point called the Robins, after manager Wilbert Robinson.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:48 AM on February 9, 2018


« Older Structural Loneliness   |   Virginia Woolf's Monk House Photo Album Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments