After more than 18 months of speculation and some controversy, the Cleveland Indians’ days are numbered. At the conclusion of the 2021 season, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will be renamed the “Guardians.” The team revealed the new name today in a video on social media narrated by Tom Hanks.
The name is a reference to “The Guardians of Traffic,” Art Deco sculptures located on the iconic Hope Memorial Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio. The team video showed the name in a font reminiscent of the “CLEVELAND” block letters used at various times throughout team history, and it retains the red-white-and-blue color scheme. The video also includes a “G” logo that wraps itself around a baseball.
Controversy Over The Team Name And Logo
In recent years the team came under criticism for the use of a racially insensitive logo that was a smiling caricature of a Native American with red skin and a feather on his head. As far back as the 1997 season, protestors were seen outside the ballpark in Cleveland demanding that the team stop the use of the Chief Wahoo image. By the early 2010s, changes in attitudes toward cultural appropriation brought the team name under scrutiny, though the franchise continued to use Chief Wahoo.
In 2014, large protests from tribal leaders in Ohio were held in the city and before baseball games, demanding a change. By 2017-18, the Washington Redskins of the NFL were under pressure to remove their team name, even as their front office insisted they would not alter it. That controversy put more pressure on Cleveland’s MLB team. Finally, in 2019, under the leadership of team owner Paul Dolan, the team announced they would cease usage of Chief Wahoo, replacing it with a block letter “C” primary logo. In December of 2020, Dolan announced that his team would seek a new nickname and hopefully have it in place by the 2022 season.
Today’s video and a planned press conference make that timeline a reality, and remove a name that had been used by the franchise for more than 100 years.
History Of The Cleveland Indians Name
Cleveland’s entry in the American League had a tough time finding a team nickname in their early days. The franchise was dubbed the Bluebirds in 1901 in their inaugural season, but the fans and players hated it, so it was shortened to Blues. But that wasn’t popular either, so when star player Napoleon Lajoie was named manager, the newspapers and fans started calling the team the “Naps.” That fit as long as Lajoie was in uniform, but once he was gone, the team needed a new identity.
In 1915, officials accepted a suggestion from media members and changed the team name to “Indians.” The name harkened back to the old National League team in the city, which was officially called the “Spiders.” But the star player on the Spiders was a Native American named Louis Sockalexis, and some fans called the old NL club “Indians” in his honor. In 1915, the AL Cleveland franchise adopted “Indians” and it stayed that way for more than 100 years until now.
In recent seasons the cartoonish and insensitive Chief Wahoo logo wasn’t the only thing that offended some people. There were also stereotypical Native American traditions at the ballpark, such as the incessant banging of a drum at home games by a fan named John Adams, who started the practice in 1973 and has kept it up for more than four decades. It remains to be seen if the team will allow Adams to bring his large bass drum to home games in 2022 when the name Guardians is in place. The franchise has not won a World Series since 1948, the longest drought among active MLB teams.
Ohio Sports Betting
This isn’t the only change headed to the Ohio sports world. The state is currently in the process of legalizing sports betting, though it’s slow going as of this writing. The state Senate had to review a whopping 45 amendments to the proposed legislation. This extended the process, shunting any real progress until after Labor Day. But state leaders don’t think it’ll hurt the state in the long run.