The Cleveland Indians are officially on the clock.
Nope, they’re not picking next in the MLB Amateur Draft. They are likely to get thrown into the spotlight over their team name as the Washington Redskins announced that they will retire their own moniker amid corporate and public pressure because of racial connotations.
The Indians are among the teams that are going to come under scrutiny to change their name. Cleveland had already changed their Chief Wahoo logo over racial connotations and the nickname, which has been around since 1914.
While the NFL’s Washington team will have a new name before the start of the 2020 season, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported Friday that MLB’s Cleveland team might not have a new name until the 2022 season at the earliest. The report cited copyright and marketing issues, among other problems.
According to the Plain-Dealer, team owner Paul Dolan will meet with Native American leaders on the name “Indians” and it’s unlikely the officials will push the name to remain the same or change it to something else with Native American connotations – for example, the Tribe.
The team name would reportedly be something “fresh.” Many on social media have jumped at the chance for the team to bring back the Spiders moniker. The Cleveland Spiders played in the American Association from 1887-1889. The Indians were called the Naps, Bronchos and Blues previously.
The Indians have been under public pressure to make the change, though sponsors like Progressive and Sherwin-Williams have not made any public requests for a new name. Washington had heard from sponsors like FedEx and their merchandise was removed from several websites.
Cleveland released a statement amid calls for Washington to change its name.
“We have had ongoing discussions organizationally on these issues,” the Indians said. “The recent social unrest in our community and our country has only underscored the need for us to keep improving as an organization on issues of social justice.”
“While the focus of the baseball world shifts to the excitement of an unprecedented 2020 season, we recognize our unique place in the community and are committed to listening, learning and acting in the manner that can best unite and inspire our city and all those who support our team," the club added.
Indians manager Terry Francona also supported the idea.
"I’ve been thinking about it and been thinking about it before we put out that statement,” Francona told reporters in a video conference call, as the Akron Beacon-Journal reported. “I know in the past, when I’ve been asked about [it], whether it’s our name or the Chief Wahoo, I think I would usually answer and say I know that we’re never trying to be disrespectful, and I still feel that way. But, I don’t think that’s a good enough answer today.
“I think it’s time to move forward and not just say — it’s a very difficult subject. It’s also delicate. ... I think I lead the American League in errors made in life, which I’m not necessarily proud of. Even at my age, you don’t want to be too old to learn or to realize that, maybe I’ve been ignorant of some things, and to be ashamed of it, and to try to be better. I was happy that we are going to — [Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, I and general manager Mike Chernoff], we’ve talked about this for years by ourselves. It didn’t have to be a meeting. I’m glad that we’re going to be open to listening, because I think that’s probably the most important thing right now, is being willing to [listen], not necessarily just talk.”
The Indians removed the Chief Wahoo logo off its own merchandise in 2016. The club has insisted it had no intention to disparage Native Americans with its name and logo.