Cleveland’s baseball team has officially changed its name from the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians amid a wide push for sports organizations to stop using racist team names.
The Cleveland team’s owner, Paul Dolan, announced the team’s commitment to change its name in December. The new name will go into effect after the 2021 season.
The Twitter account for the Cleveland Guardians announced its new name with a video featuring a voice-over from Tom Hanks, who begins the clip by saying, “We are a city on the rise, forging into the future from our ironed-out past.”
“Its history flows like the river through the heart of this city, the history that has given us miraculous moments ... moments that prove this is more than a game,” Hanks later continues.
“We remember those moments as we move forward with change. You see, there’s always been Cleveland ― that’s the best part of our name. And now it’s time to reunite as one family, one community, to build the next era for this team and this city,” he adds.
The National Congress of American Indians, which has long pushed for the Cleveland team to remove its harmful logo, celebrated the name change on Friday.
“With today’s announcement, the Cleveland baseball team has taken another important step forward in healing the harms its former mascot long caused Native people, in particular Native youth,” the organization’s president Fawn Sharp said in a statement. “We call on the other professional sports teams and thousands of schools across the country that still cling to their antiquated Native ‘themed’ mascots to immediately follow suit.”
“NCAI also looks forward to continuing its work with the Cleveland Guardians to help grow the national movement of respect for Tribal Nations, cultures, and communities, a movement that values, teaches, and validates who Native people are today, what makes us unique, the many important contributions we make to this country, and our rightful place in the diverse mosaic that is America,” the statement continued.
Dolan told The Associated Press in December that it was “time” to stop using the team’s moniker after months of internal discussions and meetings with Native American groups.
“The name is no longer acceptable in our world,” he said at the time. He noted that identifying a new name was a “difficult and complex process.”
“But we’re not going to do something just for the sake of doing it,” he added. “We’re going to take the time we need to do it right.”
The Cleveland baseball team announced in 2018 that it would stop using its logo, a racist cartoonish caricature named “Chief Wahoo,” on its uniforms beginning in 2019, after decades of pushback from activists, including many Native American groups.
In 2018, Philip Yenyo of the American Indian Movement of Ohio told The New York Times that the logo’s removal was a “step in the right direction” but that the team’s name had to go, too.
“The nickname absolutely has to go. It’s not just the logo,” he added.
The Washington NFL team announced in July 2020 its decision to drop its former racist name after decades of backlash. The team has not yet decided on a new name.