MLB commissioner pressuring Indians to get rid of Chief Wahoo

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Thursday April 13th, 2017

Because everything is offensive to those determined to be offended.

Maybe this weekend the Tigers will being the process of returning the Indians to baseball obscurity, and then no one will care about Chief Wahoo. One can only hope. But I know better than to think it would go that way. People who want to be offended go looking for offense, and they've already found it in Chief Wahoo. They're not going to give up the quest no matter how irrelevant the offending team becomes, and sadly Rob Manfred appears to be joining Roger Goodell and Adam Silver as major sports commissioners determined to pander to the please-offend-me crowd.

The result? Although the Indians appear to be resisting the complete elimination of their smiling, wild-eyed icon, the pressure from on high may become unbearable:

Chief Wahoo -- a caricature described as “bigoted” and “despicable” by the Cleveland American Indian Movement as recently as last month -- has been a source of controversy, as sports teams have been urged to abandon mascots and team names with Native American themes. While the Indians have moved away from the logo in favor of a “C” on the team hats in recent seasons, Chief Wahoo still appears on the sleeve, and the team sells items with the logo on it.

"Commission Rob Manfred and Indians owner Paul Dolan have had on-going dialogue on the topic of Chief Wahoo since last October," the Indians said in a statement. "We certainly understand the sensitivities of the logo - those who find it insensitive and also those who have a long standing attachment to its place in the history of the team.

"We fully expect to work with the commissioner throughout the remainder of this season on finding a solution that is good for the game and our organization.

"Our primary focus right now is on the team and our pursuit of returning to the postseason"

The New York Times was the first outlet to report that there has been progress in discussions between MLB’s front office and the Indians.

“Thus far, there have been productive discussions with the Cleveland Indians regarding the commissioner’s desire to transition away from the Chief Wahoo logo,” MLB spokesperson Pat Courtney said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. “We have specific steps in an identified process and are making progress. We are confident that a positive resolution will be reached that will be good for the game and the club.”

Now let's go back to the point made on Monday about Target and transgender bathrooms: The major institition in play here doesn't really care one way or the other about right or wrong. The concern is to avoid trouble and controversy, and the people screaming that Chief Wahoo is "dispicable" and "bigoted" are much more likely to cause such trouble than those who really don't care.

So you replace one of the most distinctive logos in sports with a lame, block-shaped C, and hope you've mollified the malcontents to the point where they will no longer take to denouncing you in public forums.

You think that's likely to work? Neither do I. But Manfred is more afraid of the bigotry charge than he is of just about anything else apart from games that last longer than three hours, so he's going to keep the pressure on the Indians until they capitulate and conform to acceptable norms of the brave new world. Speaking of the Braves, that tomahawk is awfully racist, isn't it?

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Someone seriously asked me once: If a team called itself the Italians, and its logo depicted a mafia capo rubbing someone out, how would I feel about that? Honestly, I'd think it was hilarious - if only because the stereotype of Italians as mafiosos is so cartoonish that it amuses me more at the expense of those who actually think it's typical. Now, if you depicted a smiling, fat Italian tossing a pizza dough in the air, you'd be closer to the truth and still entertaining. But hey, we all talk with our hands, so whatever works for you is fine with me.

(By the way, a team called the Dagos would really be funny, and it would become a great conversation piece. The colors on that flag are for pasta, tomato sauce and oregano, you understand.)

But why is Chief Wahoo more offensive than what I'm talking about here? He's not. The truth is that ideas are not offensive so much as people are offended, because people make a decision that they want to be offended. The people pressuring Rob Manfred to pressure the Cleveland Indians are in the business of offense-mongering. They find things to be offended about and use that to demand things they want from high-powered institutions, who would rather give in than stand their ground and risk bad publicity. The predictable responses of people like Manfred ensure the offense-mongers they will continue to have a successful industry.

I hope the Indians stand their ground. It would be one of the few worthwhile things the Indians could do, apart from finishing last and losing 18 or 19 games to the Tigers this season. As a fan, I won't like them no matter what they do. But if they could strike a blow against political correctness and actually keep Chief Wahoo on their uniforms, at least that would be something.

Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!