Known as the Indians since 1915, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will be called Guardians.
The ballclub announced the name change Friday—effective at the end of the 2021 season—with a video on Twitter narrated by actor Tom Hanks. The decision ends months of internal discussions triggered by a national reckoning by institutions and teams to permanently drop logos and names many consider racist.
The Indianapolis Indians, a Minor League Baseball team that has used the Indians name since its founding in 1902, said in a statement Friday afternoon “that there is nothing new on our end” in regards to considering a name change.
The Indianapolis team announced almost a year ago that franchise officials were reviewing whether a name change was necessary and had formed a committee to gather input.
The choice of Guardians will undoubtedly be criticized by many of Cleveland’s die-hard fans.
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 name.
Dolan is expected to provide more details on the choice and background on the change at a news conference at Progressive Field before the Indians host the Tampa Bay Rays.
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.
The name change has sparked lively debate among the city’s passionate sports fans. Other names, including the Spiders, which is what the team was once called, were pushed by supporters on social media platforms.
But Guardians does seem to fit the team’s objective to find a name that embodies Cleveland’s ethos while preserving the team’s history and uniting the community.
Not far from the downtown ballpark, there are two large landmark stone edifices—referred to as guardians—on the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River.
Numerous Native American groups have protested Cleveland’s use of the Wahoo logo and Indians name for years, so the latest development brought some comfort.
“It is a major step towards righting the wrongs committed against Native peoples, and is one step towards justice,” said Crystal Echo Hawk, executive director and founder of IllumiNative, a group dedicated to fighting misrepresentations of Native Americans.
The name change has sparked lively debate among the city’s passionate sports fans. Other names, including the Spiders, which is what the team was called before 1900, were pushed by supporters on social media platforms.
But Guardians does seem to fit the team’s objective to find a name that embodies Cleveland’s hard-working, loyal, Midwestern-valued ethos while preserving the team’s history and uniting the community.
The rebranding comes as the Indians, who have one of baseball’s lowest payrolls, try to stay in contention despite a slew of injuries as the July 30 trading deadline approaches.
“This is a historic moment for our franchise, and we are excited for our players and staff to debut our new team name and look in 2022,” said Chris Antonetti, the club’s president of baseball operations. “We look forward to our team proudly representing the city of Cleveland as the Guardians.”
Guardians is the fifth name in franchise history joining the Blues (1901), Bronchos (1902), Naps (1903-1914) and Indians (1915-2021).
Cleveland also had a professional baseball team called the Spiders, which competed at the Major League level from 1887 to 1899, first for two seasons as a member of the now-defunct American Association, followed by 11 seasons in the National League.