It was a subtle, quiet move, but Topps has phased out the long-standing “Chief Wahoo” logo of the Cleveland Indians with the more generic “block-C” on most of its baseball cards this year.
The Indians have come under increased pressure to remove the longtime logo, which depicts a red-faced, smiling Native American that has been called racially insensitive and offensive. In 2000, the Penobscot Indian Nation formally asked the team to stop using Chief Wahoo as a logo.
The issue gained some traction online after a SABR blog post Monday, but for the most part, it has been in place on cards since Topps’ flagship Series One baseball product was released in February. Topps is not reverting to the airbrushing tactics that were prevalent in its 1970s pro football product, however. If a photo depicts a player with a Chief Wahoo logo on his uniform, it remains intact. Topps merely changed the independent, free-standing logos it uses for decorative effect on its cards. Major League Baseball and the Indians use the block-C as the team’s primary logo, and as the official card licensee of MLB, Topps has complied.
Last year, Topps used Chief Wahoo as its free-standing logo.
In a statement released Tuesday evening, however, Topps said it “has not changed its practice” regarding logos on its cards.
“We continue to use the primary and secondary logos that are determined by MLB and its clubs, and show players in whatever uniforms they happen to be wearing,” the statement read. “To the extent we show team logos on a free-standing basis, it is generally the then-current primary logos of the clubs.”
In the 2017 Topps Series Two baseball set, there is a mixture of logos. For example, Jose Ramirez (card No. 487) is shown wearing a block-C helmet. Meanwhile, the uniform worn by reliever Andrew Miller (No. 422) includes Chief Wahoo logos on his sleeve and cap. The free-standing logo for both cards, however, is the block-C. The block-C logo is also used in Topps’ Bowman set, which was released earlier this year.
The block-C independent logos will be used on all issues, including retro sets like Topps Heritage and Allen & Ginter. Since this year’s Topps Heritage set mirrors the 1968 “burlap” design, the team’s name is included inside a circle, with no logos.
In the recently released Allen & Ginter retro set, the card design does not use a free-standing logo. Therefore, some cards will have the Chief Wahoo logo depicted within the artistic rendition of the player. That is case for Edwin Encarnacion (card No. 36) and Francisco Lindor (No. 200) who are wearing a Chief Wahoo hats. The logo is obscured on the hat of Jason Kipnis (No. 236) because he is looking up.
Chief Wahoo does show up in the 2017 Archives set as a standalone logo. A Bazooka insert of Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel (No. 59B-16) has Chief Wahoo grinning in the lower left-hand corner. Interestingly, a Lindor card (59B-9) from the same insert set has the block-C logo. The chief also appears in a Series Two Topps Salute insert of Kenny Lofton (No. S-187). As the year progresses, there will probably be more examples.
The team told television station WKYC that it had no comment on the matter.