MLB’s Cleveland Indians change name to Guardians

Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians announced Friday morning they are changing the name of the team to the Cleveland Guardians.

The ballclub announced the name change Friday with a video on Twitter narrated by actor Tom Hanks, ending months of internal discussions triggered by a national reckoning by institutions and teams to permanently drop logos and names considered racist.

The team has been known as the Indians since 1915.

The organization spent most of the past year whittling down a list of potential names that was at nearly 1,200 just over a month ago. But the process quickly accelerated and the club landed on Guardians.

Team owner Paul Dolan said last summer’s social unrest, touched off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, spurred his intention to change the ballclub’s name.

In 2018, the Indians stopped wearing the contentious Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps. However, the team continues to sell merchandise bearing the smiling, red-faced caricature that was protested for decades by Native American groups.

Cleveland is the latest professional sports franchise to change its name. Last week marked the one-year anniversary since the NFL’s Washington franchise dropped the name Redskins and the accompanying Indian head logo after 87 years amid pressure from sponsors and decades of criticism that both are offensive to Native Americans.

The Washington Football Team will be around for one more season, with a new name set to be revealed in early 2022.

Protests have followed the Kansas City Chiefs on two Super Bowl trips, and last fall they barred headdresses and war paint for fans at Arrowhead Stadium. They’re still facing calls to abandon a tradition of fans breaking into a “war chant” while making a chopping hand motion designed to mimic the Native American tomahawk — which is not unique to Kansas City.

A coalition of Native American groups put up billboards in the Kansas City area to protest the tomahawk chop and Chiefs’ name.

North of the border, Edmonton of the Canadian Football League reversed course last summer by dropping the name Eskimos in the aftermath of Washington’s decision, temporarily becoming the EE Football Team. On June 1, Elks was announced as Edmonton’s new name.

The Braves have resisted calls for a name change. The team has not waivered from a firm statement in a letter to season-ticket holders in 2020 that said: “We will always be the Atlanta Braves.” The death of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron in January led some fans to propose a switch to Atlanta Hammers to honor “Hammerin’ Hank.”

The Chicago Blackhawks have shown no signs of considering a name change, with the club contending it honors Black Hawk, a Native American leader from Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation. CEO Danny Wirtz said in December that the Blackhawks “continue to deepen our commitment to upholding our namesake and our brand.”

Like the Chiefs, the Blackhawks banned headdresses at home games as part of their pledge to honor the Native American community, with which the team has tried to strengthen ties over the past year.

After Miami of Ohio, St. John’s, Syracuse, North Dakota and others made changes, a handful of U.S. colleges and universities maintained Native American nicknames for sports teams and received waivers from the NCAA because of support from local tribes. Those includes the Florida State Seminoles, Utah Utes and Central Michigan Chippewas.

Illinois retired the Chief Illiniwek mascot in 2007 but has kept the Fighting Illini name.