Posted on December 14, 2020

Cleveland’s Baseball Team Will Drop Its Indians Team Name

David Waldstein and Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times, December 13, 2020

After years of protests from fans and Native American groups, the Cleveland Indians have decided to change their team name, moving away from a moniker that has long been criticized as racist, three people familiar with the decision said Sunday.

The move follows a decision by the Washington Football Team of the N.F.L. in July to stop using a name long considered a racial slur, and is part of a larger national conversation about race that magnified this year amid protests of systemic racism and police violence.


Cleveland spent much of the year before the 2019 season phasing out the logos and imagery of the cartoon mascot Chief Wahoo.


The Cleveland baseball franchise has been known as the Indians since 1915, but Native American groups and others have for decades opposed the use of Indigenous names, mascots and imagery for sports teams, insisting they are demeaning and racist. Cleveland’s name and Washington’s old name were considered among the most high-profile examples and were the targets of widespread campaigns for change.


In response to Cleveland’s decision, many fans praised the move, saying it was long overdue and proposing ideas for new names. Others — in particular President Trump — criticized the decision.

“Oh no!” Trump tweeted. “What is going on? This is not good news, even for ‘Indians’. Cancel culture at work!”

Other professional sports teams, including the Atlanta Braves, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Blackhawks, have said in recent months that they have no plans to change their names. Many universities and high schools abandoned Native American names and mascots long ago, but efforts to address the names at all levels of sport in the United States have increased in recent months.

For Cleveland, the process began when it announced it would retire its longtime mascot, Chief Wahoo, a cartoonish caricature that was seen as particularly offensive. {snip}

Then in July, just hours after Washington announced it would change its name (under pressure from key sponsors like FedEx, Pepsi and Nike), Cleveland said it would conduct a “thorough review” of its nickname. {snip}