Cleveland Indians change team name


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The Cleveland Indians will play one more season under their current name. The team has yet to settle on a replacement name.

Akhil Medarametla, Contributing Reporter

Recently, the Cleveland Indians baseball team made the decision to abandon its team name in the offseason following the 2021 season. This decision comes after several years of petitioning and challenges from Native American groups and fans around the country who rallied against the team name and the controversial logo of Chief Wahoo. 

Although the decision to adopt a new team name was only announced at the end of 2020, opposition to the name has been around for decades. The earliest accounts of protest dating back to the 1970s, however, were ignored by many people, including the team. According to the Society of Indian Psychologists, a letter penned in 1999 to the Cleveland Indians not only called for Cleveland to retire its club name, but also for all Native American imagery, logos and names to be removed by professional, collegiate and high school sports. The society stated that the continued use of this content would make it even more difficult to educate sports fans and the nation about the struggles of Native Americans.

The name change took place after a professional football team, the Washington Redskins, removed their team name in response to extensive backlash.  Currently, the team is reported as the Washington Football Team until management decides on a long-term team name. For Cleveland, the Chief Wahoo logo was more controversial than the team name, so they have also started to look for logo alternatives. 

As a Cleveland Indians fan who has followed the team extensively and attended several games over the years, I’ve seen some of the team’s changes firsthand. During the 2014 baseball season, the team replaced Chief Wahoo on its jersey and apparel with their current “Block C” logo, a large, red font letter C. The chief was still featured on several variations of their alternate jerseys for some years afterwards, and the franchise received tremendous negative attention during their World Series run. Officially, the Chief Wahoo logo was dropped after the 2018 season, following the team’s loss to the Houston Astros in the American League Division series. The team’s Chief Wahoo logo has been in existence since 1947 and survived for nearly seven decades.

On Dec.14, 2020, the Cleveland Indians officially announced that the team’s name would change following the team’s 2021 season. For this upcoming season, however, the team will keep the name and not follow Washington’s example by adopting “The Cleveland Baseball Team.” Currently, the organization is cautiously deliberating a new name to ensure an appropriate name is chosen and a smooth transition into the 2022 season and beyond.

I had the opportunity to speak with current Case Western Reserve University first-year student, Skanda Moorthy, a fellow Cleveland native, about his opinions on team’s recent decision to change its name:

How connected are you to the team name?

“In all honesty, I’m not that connected to the team name. I think more than the team name, it’s the team itself which matters in the culture. Although the team name does carry itself as a brand, I am not too connected with the Cleveland Indians name, per se. I just want Cleveland’s baseball team to be successful as an organization, because it helps the city in so many ways in terms of revenue, culture and overall changing the stereotype that outsiders have that Cleveland is crappy––which is not true and what is a very popular opinion, but wrong in my opinion.”


Do you feel like this is the right move on Cleveland’s behalf and should the decision to change the name have come earlier?

“I believe it is the right move on Cleveland’s behalf, especially with the precedent set by the Washington Football Team. They scraped the name ‘Washington Redskins’ to go with the ‘Washington Football Team,’ although I do not like the ‘Cleveland Baseball Team.’ The front runner ‘Cleveland Spiders’ seems like a decent idea. Should the change have come sooner? In all honesty? No. As long as it’s done and it’s done correctly, that’s the most important thing. I believe that the name change was correct. As a minority myself, I wouldn’t like it if a sports team was named something about my race or about my color. I feel like sports teams should get a generic name like an animal or a symbol or something that they can stand behind that pertains to a city. For example, the New England Patriots. Although the name itself [isn’t commonly] used across all forms of sports, it’s a symbol for a successful winning culture. With the name and the name change, it could have been made earlier but it was more about the brand and the name.”

Finally, do you like the name “Cleveland Spiders” and if not, then what would you want it to be changed to?

“I do not mind the name [change] to Cleveland Spiders. But, I hope if it goes through, the Spiders will represent our city for a lot longer than the Indians did. It is kind of a generic name, and I don’t see many other sports teams with the name ‘Spiders,’ which could be unique to our city. [If] I were to throw out any other ideas, maybe I will throw the Cleveland Iron Men or something with the strength connotation or strength meaning attached to it because I feel like Cleveland has a lot of meaning and genuine tough hard-working people, and I feel like the Cleveland Iron Men would be actually be a really cool name.”



Personally, I am torn by Cleveland’s decision to change its name. On one hand, I am a strong supporter of changing the name because of its insensitive Native American references. On the other hand, I am sad to see it go because of the strong connection I felt to the team and the memories I have associated with the Indians’ name, such as watching countless games for the last decade with family.

Since the team’s decision was announced, the principal question on fans’ minds is “What will the Cleveland Indians’ new name be?” Although no one knows for sure what the new name will be, several names are under consideration. The current front runner is the “Cleveland Spiders,” which references Cleveland’s brief National League team in the late 19th century. Another name being evaluated is the “Cleveland Rockers,” an allusion to Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The “Cleveland Blues,” which was the team’s original name at the time of their inauguration in 1901, is also in the running. 

If you could pick any name, what new name would you give to the Cleveland Indians?