Logo Design Love

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Chief Wahoo

“The grinning, hook-nosed caricature, later known as Chief Wahoo, first appeared in 1947, the same year that legendary baseball promotor Bill Veeck desegregated the American league by signing the black star Larry Doby for the Cleveland Indians.”

Larry Doby
Larry Doby, photo AP (click for larger image)

Veeck commissioned a new, cartoonish design to replace the old Chief Wahoo.

Chief Wahoo logo
Cleveland Indians mascot, 1951-1972; 1980-present

Twenty-five years later, the Cleveland Indian Center sued the team for $9 million over the offensive depiction of a ‘smiling, dumb savage.’ A lawyer for the centre said:

“Our position is that we have no problem with the team being called the Cleveland Indians. It’s Chief Wahoo that is the objection.”

The case was settled out of court, and while some Indian-themed sports logos disappeared, Cleveland players still wear Chief Wahoo uniforms.

(Info from Daniel Engber’s article in the New York Times.)

Chief Wahoo
Photo by Tony Dejak / AP, via New York Daily News

Once again, Chief Wahoo’s days could be numbered.

The Cleveland Indians need to end Chief Wahoo ASAP, New York Daily News
Indians logo next under scrutiny? Fox Sports
Indians asking for fans’ opinions on Chief Wahoo logo, Sporting News
Chief Wahoo has been demoted, but not because logo is racist, New Republic
RIP Chief Wahoo, theScore.com
Washington Redskins’ mascot controversy makes Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo look even more stupid and racist, cleveland.com

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities, second edition

4 appreciated comments

  1. Dracha Arendee

    Chief Wahoo – People Not Mascots’ Logo
    Artist : David Jakupca
    Acrylic on Canvas 22″ x 28″ 1992 Signed Lower Right
    Current Owner assumed to be Lake Erie Native American Council (LENAC)

    The ‘People Not Mascots’ Logo is meant to be a Native American protest caricature of the Cleveland Indians Baseball team. It was originally painted by David Jakupca at the historic ARK in Berea incorporating elements of the Theory of Iceality on Environmental Arts, it has drawn criticism from some sportswriters, fans and local businessmen, but gained immediate acceptance among humanitarian, religious groups and Native Americans. It gained international popular attention when it was it exhibited by ICEA at the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna, Austria and has become one of the most recognized anti-racists logo’s in existence. It also caused repercussions for the groups connected with using the logo in protest demonstrations and this has been documented in the INTERNECINE MATRIX..
    Reference Links:
    INTERNECINE MATRIX http://theicea.com/page21
    WIKIPEDIA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_Wahoo

  2. I never knew the logo for the Indians was an actual Chief. I can honestly not understand what is wrong about having a smiling chief?

  3. Stacy J

    As a Cleveland native (no pun intended), the sooner this mascot is retired, the better. As to what’s wrong with a smiling Indian? This cartoon is a legacy of the US’s racist past, when minorities could be portrayed as just happy minions such as the smiling black sambo.

  4. Bekka H.

    I don’t believe that Chief Wahoo is a racist “logo” for the Cleveland Indians Team. The original design for Chief Wahoo was a tribute to one of the first Native American players in the MLB, Louis Sockalexis. Sockalexis played in the late 1800s. I fully understand the “If he played in the 1800s why would the Chief Wahoo logo be drawn up in 1947?” I honestly have no idea. My point is Chief Wahoo was NEVER meant to be a racist symbol.


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