Chief Wahoo (photo: Wiki­media Commons)

When I was a young kid, I remember vis­iting my grandfather’s house in rural Ohio. He was a die-hard Cleveland Indians fan his entire life, up until the day he passed away in 2013. He was a truck driver and handyman; he always took me out to his workshop to show me his latest con­traption or car­pentry.

One of his favorite projects was the painted wooden por­traits of his favorite baseball team’s logo. He created them with pride for friends and family, and hung them on trees in his yard or on the walls of his shed. He would have had the time of his life watching the Indians make their post­season run all the way to the World Series in 2016.

The Cleveland Indians, beginning in 2019, will no longer display their “Chief Wahoo” logo on any of their hats, uni­forms, or promote the use of the car­i­cature. No plans for a replacement logo have been made, but it seems the Indians will use their scripted “C” as their primary logo.

The team’s his­toric Chief Wahoo, a stereo­typical car­i­cature of a Native American, began with a crooked-nosed, wide-toothed, orange-faced, and goofy-looking cartoon. Hardly edi­fying if you’re eth­ni­cally Native American.

Even­tually, the Indians moved on from their initial cringe­worthy logo. They replaced it with a more pro­por­tional cartoon. Still, not the best look. After all, Native Amer­icans have his­tor­i­cally been bru­talized and dis­crim­i­nated in the United States, the land of “America’s pastime.”

Columnist Jose de Jesus Ortiz wrote last week in the St. Louis Post-Dis­patch, “Humans are not mascots.” He is right. I wouldn’t be sur­prised if sometime in the near future, the Cleveland Indians dump their mascot alto­gether in favor of a less con­tro­versial name.

Old-school baseball fans, and Indians fans in par­ticular, will cite their his­toric attach­ments to the Indians and Chief Wahoo as reasons for keeping the logo. But Major League Baseball has a pair of pan­demics on its hands that make this argument obsolete.

First, the average age of a Major League Baseball tele­vision viewer in 2016 was 57. Second, despite con­certed efforts to promote baseball in inner cities, less than seven percent of current Major League Baseball players are African American. Less than 28 percent are His­panic, despite the sport’s over­whelming pop­u­larity in the Caribbean and Central America.

Soon, a gen­er­ation of baseball fans smaller than the one that pre­ceded it will be Major League Baseball’s primary viewing audience. Given the pro­gressive social atti­tudes of younger gen­er­a­tions and the inevitable progress of history, they are less likely to have an attachment to the con­tro­versial Chief Wahoo logo.

Racist logos and mascots do not encourage youth or minorities toward a sport. In fact, they do the opposite. If Major League Baseball wants to expand its brand, moving away from a con­tro­versial logo is a good first step.

If even one kid who has the potential to be a great baseball player doesn’t want to be rep­re­sented by a team with a demeaning logo, Major League Baseball should take note. The National Football League, his­tor­i­cally the most popular pro­fes­sional sports league in the United States, has struggled with decreasing pop­u­larity recently because of political con­tro­versies.

Baseball hasn’t been immune from pol­itics, either. In this case, social pol­itics threaten to dis­solve the promi­nence of Major League Baseball in the United States. But baseball has an oppor­tunity, with record numbers of kids playing in little leagues, to grow in pop­u­larity and even even­tually surpass the National Football League as America’s pre­ferred pro­fes­sional sport.

My grand­father, though he had an affinity for the Indians logos he’d paint and hang on the walls of his shed, would care much more whether or not the Indians would win on a given night. Chief Wahoo wasn’t what made the Indians the Indians. It was the game, and the fans, including himself.

Nathaniel Grime is a sophomore studying the liberal arts.