The news that the Indians are removing Chief Wahoo from their uniforms and hats starting with the 2019 season was met with celebrations and applause by some and anger and threats of boycotts from others. It was a divided, two-sided retort to the conclusion of a debate that had picked up intensity in recent years.

The comments sections of websites posting Chief Wahoo stories and those seeing the news on social media sites somewhat mirrored political message boards on Election Day. Most of the responses from outside of Northeast Ohio were positive, with a tone declaring that this action was a long time coming.

The local response was more divided. Some fans were happy with the move from a social standpoint, but others were upset that a locally beloved logo was being eradicated from the uniforms. A few threatened to no longer go to games or even watch Major League Baseball, simply because of one insignia’s demise after this season, though it’s also possible that they weren’t going to go to games in the first place.

The decision is being well-received while being viewed through academic and statistical lenses. Dr. Theresa Walton-Fisette, a Kent State University professor in the Sport Administration program and the past President of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, sees this move by the Indians as not just a step in the right direction from a cultural standpoint, but a good business move as well.

Dr. Walton-Fisette, as president of the NASSS in 2016, updated a resolution from 2005 seeking the discontinued use of Native American logos and symbols by sports teams and sent a letter to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, the Indians and some businesses which had contracts with the club, such as Fanatics, urging the removal of Chief Wahoo.

The argument was two-fold, appealing to both a sociological side and the league’s bottom line. The first case was that the use of such logos were harmful to Native American teenagers. Dr. Walton-Fisette cited a study performed in 2008 by the University of Arizona, the University of Michigan and Stanford University. In four studies published together, Native American teenagers were shown different logos — Chief Wahoo included — and asked to respond to some questions. A correlation was found between the imagery of such caricatures and lessened levels of self-esteem, future ambitions and perceptions of community self-worth.

“What was interesting was that even when students first said the mascot didn’t affect them, the data showed that actually it did have an impact on them, psychologically,” she said.

That points to why many Indians fans have had trouble with the logo’s use, while others have been angry with the idea of removing it from the uniforms, stating that there is no problem. Many fans have said that they have an emotional attachment to Chief Wahoo through strictly baseball terms, and don’t see an issue with it because they don’t perceive it as harmful.

Even Indians owner Paul Dolan, speaking in August in Akron, acknowledged that he could see why some could have an issue with it, and that fans in Northeast Ohio “may live in a little bit of a bubble.”

Dr. Walton-Fisette sees it as a problem of awareness along those lines.

“On the sociological side, I would definitely say a lot of people think it’s an issue that doesn’t cause harm to anyone. The research, the data, the evidence, shows that that’s not the case,” she said. “We’re in an area where people don’t have day-to-day contact with Native American people. It’s easy for them to forget that that might have an impact. I don’t think we’d see that image with any other group because of that. So you’re coming into this vacuum, and on top of that, change is hard. People have an emotional attachment to things.”

This decision has angered a portion of the fan base, but Dr. Walton-Fisette believes the Indians could end up profiting from it through merchandise sales. She cited an Emory University study that found that sports teams displaying a logo depicting Native Americans statistically didn’t bring in revenue at the same rate as some of their counterparts, at times to the tune of millions of dollars. Furthermore, switching away from those types of logos typically resulted in an uptick in revenue.

The Indians also stand to profit from hosting the 2019 All-Star Game, something that likely gave MLB considerable leverage in the push to get rid of Chief Wahoo.

Chief Wahoo will be removed from the uniforms and hats, but the Indians have retained the trademark, and thus control over the logo, allowing them to continue to profit from its use on merchandise and disallow any other entity to try to do the same.

But just the removal of Chief Wahoo from a visual standpoint during games has been seen by Dr. Walton-Fisette and many others as a positive one. And as she pointed out in her 2016 letter to MLB and others, the statistics show that it’s even good for business.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ.