A New Name for Cleveland Baseball

Posted by on Aug 4, 2021 in Current Events

In recent years, the names and mascots of several professional sports teams have received criticism for their racist overtones. Now, one team–the Cleveland Indians–is doing something about it. Starting in the 2022 season, the Cleveland Indians will now be known as the Cleveland Guardians. This follows the change the team already made in 2018 when it removed the “Chief Wahoo” logo from its uniforms and merchandise. Here, btw takes a closer look at the decision and the response to it.

Why “The Guardians”?

baseball jersey with CLEVELAND across the front
The Cleveland baseball team will have a new name next season.

The team went through a long selection process when trying to choose a new name. It surveyed 40,000 fans and conducted hundreds of hours of interviews. Out of the more than 1,190 names submitted, a popular choice was the Guardians. This refers to Cleveland’s large, iconic statues called the Guardians of Traffic, which are found on the Hope Memorial Bridge. The bridge connects the east and west sides of the city near the baseball stadium. The team said it was important to choose a name that had a strong connection to the city of Cleveland.

How Have People Responded?

Native American activists, including Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (the first Native American cabinet secretary), have praised the team’s decision. Some have also encouraged other sports teams to take similar steps. But there are some fans who criticized the change, calling it a break with tradition.

It’s important to remember that it’s not uncommon for teams to change their names. In fact, the Guardians is the Cleveland baseball team’s fifth name. In the past, it has also been called the Blues, the Broncos, and the Naps.

There is one possible glitch with the new name, however: it’s already taken. A Cleveland amateur flat-track roller derby team has used the name Guardians for almost ten years. The baseball team put in a trademark application for the name on April 8, 2021–before the roller derby team had officially filed any application.

U.S. trademark law generally favors “first to use” versus “first to file,” and the roller derby team definitely used it first. It’s possible that both teams will be permitted to use the name, given that there is little possibility of confusion. One is a professional baseball team and one is an amateur roller derby team, with different logos and audiences.

Will This Affect Other Teams?

Other professional sports teams with Native American names and mascots have had a mix of responses. Following Cleveland’s announcement, the Kansas City Chiefs football team announced that it would not be changing its name. But they will stop using “Warpaint,” their horse mascot. In 2020, the Chiefs banned fans from wearing Native American costumes, headdresses, and face paint to the football stadium. But they are still allowed to do a cheer called the “tomahawk chop.”

The Washington Football Team already changed its name from the Washington Redskins in 2020. The Atlanta Braves baseball team announced last year that they would keep their name, though they would be willing to consider retiring their “tomahawk chop.”

What Do You Think? Imagine that it’s your job to select a different name for the Cleveland baseball team (to avoid controversy with the roller derby team). What name would you choose, and why? Hint: Use Internet resources to learn a little background about Cleveland’s history and landmarks first!