Cleveland Indians Changing Name
The inevitable only took 105 years.
David Waldstein and Michael S. Schmidt of the NYT broke the story (“Cleveland’s Baseball Team Will Drop Its Indians Team Name“):
Following years of protests from fans and Native American groups, the Cleveland Indians have decided to change their team name, moving away from a moniker that has long been criticized as racist, three people familiar with the decision said Sunday.
The move follows a decision by the Washington Football Team of the N.F.L. in July to stop using a name long considered a racial slur, and is part of a larger national conversation about race that magnified this year amid protests of systemic racism and police violence.
Cleveland could announce its plans as soon as this week, according to the three people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
It is not immediately clear what Cleveland’s exact steps will be beyond dropping the Indians name. The transition to a new name involves many logistical considerations, including work with uniform manufacturers and companies that produce other team equipment and stadium signage.
The club has said that the name was originally intended to honor a former player, Louis Sockalexis, who played for the Cleveland Spiders, a major league club, in the 19th century and was a member of the Penobscot Nation. Some have suggested that Cleveland adopt the name Spiders as a replacement.
Cleveland’s name was long accompanied by the Chief Wahoo logo. Phasing the image out included removing the logo from uniforms and from walls and banners in the stadium. A block “C” was adopted in its place.
“Our organization fully recognizes our team name is among the most visible ways in which we connect with the community,” the team’s July statement said.
ESPN‘s Jeff Pasan (“Sources: Cleveland to drop Indians nickname after 105 years“) adds:
Following the decision of the NFL’s Washington franchise to drop its nickname and ultimately rebrand as the Washington Football Team, Cleveland announced it planned to undertake a thorough review of the Indians name, which it adopted in 1915. Previously, the team had been called the Cleveland Naps, after Nap Lajoie, their star player and manager.
The Indians have played upward of 17,000 games with the nickname and won two World Series — the last coming in 1948. Their 72-year championship drought is the longest in baseball.
“This is the culmination of decades of work,” the Oneida Nation of New York, which led the Change the Mascot Movement, said in a statement to ESPN. “Groups like the National Congress of American Indians passed resolutions for decades on this, social science has made clear these names are harmful and Cleveland got out in front of it and they’re leading, and rather than having this hanging over their heads, they’re charting a new path.”
President Donald Trump tweeted in response to the pending name change, calling it “Cancel culture at work!”
The Atlanta Braves of MLB, Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL and Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL are the other prominent professional franchises that use Native American imagery in their names and logos.
Whatever the Cleveland franchise chooses as its new name — among those proposed in recent years: the Naps, the Cleveland Spiders (after a defunct, 19th-century baseball team) or the Cleveland Rocks — it is likely to require new uniforms and signage around the stadium, which could delay its implementation, one source said.
The Spiders seem to be the most popular choice, as it’s both unique and tied to Cleveland’s baseball history. Alas, they’re also known as the team with the worse single-season record in Major League history.
I thought I was being clever when the name “Cleveland Rocks” occurred to me last night but, alas, apparently it’s more obvious than I thought. It too, would be unique and tied to Cleveland history.
The Lollygaggers would fit the bill, too, but I suspect they won’t go that route.*
As to the remaining major professional sports teams with Native American iconography—the Braves, Blackhawks, and Chiefs—I think they’re in a much safer category than the Indians, much less the Redskins. But grievance groups seldom go away once they’ve achieved their original goals so one presumes they’ll be the next targets.
*A commenter refreshes my memory: the sequence in question was from another late 1980s baseball movie, Bull Durham, rather than Major League.