Philip Yenyo couldn’t believe the news he heard Monday afternoon that the Cleveland Indians were removing the Chief Wahoo logo from its uniforms and hats.
“Shocked and surprised and ecstatic,” he said. “The emotions ran the gamut.”
Yenyo is executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio. He was working construction in Solon when he learned that Major League Baseball had reached an agreement with the Cleveland Indians calling for the partial elimination of the controversial team logo, known as Chief Wahoo.
Starting in the 2019 season, the image will be gone from player uniforms and from signage in Progressive Field.
The Cleveland team has sported the grinning caricature of a Native American on uniforms since the 1940s. Last spring, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred revealed he was in negotiations with the team to gradually phase out a depiction that many critics have called racist.
“I believe it’s another step in the right direction,” Yenyo said. “They really need to change the name, too. I believe if they don’t change the name along with getting rid of this logo, the things that have been going on down at that stadium all these years are going to continue.”
For decades, fans have come to the ballpark with signs bearing the Wahoo image. Some of the more exuberant visitors come in elaborate costumes.
“People are going to continue to paint themselves up in red-face,” Yenyo said. “They’re going to continue to go down there with headdresses on, not realizing or understanding how sacred those feathers are for our people. This is all about cultural respect, spiritual and religious respect, and dignity.”
There is nothing in commissioner Manfred’s Monday statement to suggest there are any plans to eliminate the Indian team name. In addition, the announcement places no limitations on what imagery fans can wear in the stadium nor on the signs they carry.