Editorial: Why are the Cleveland Indians withholding their top name-change options?


The Cleveland Indians recently announced that they’d narrowed down the list of possible new team names to 1,198.

What are those names? They’re not saying.

What is the timeline to cut back that list? They’re not saying. Will the public get the final 100 names so they can register preferences? The team isn’t saying.

In fact, this process seems to have gotten as opaque as it can be. Granted, as cleveland.com sports reporter Joe Noga noted in a recent analysis, a lot is riding on this name change — from the money entailed in changing everything about the team’s branding to fan loyalty to positive momentum for the future.

But, still, fans want a voice. Why can’t they have one?

The Cleveland public and the Indians fan base keep offering ideas. And some who are wedded to keeping the Indians name have started speculating (or hoping) that this long, drawn-out, name-change odyssey will end in keeping the name or some variation thereof.

Couldn’t the Indians push the process of change — and of public opinion — through more transparency? Instead of 1,198 mystery names, what about 100 current “best-of” names, put out for public review and comment? Why be secret?

In today’s hypercompetitive branding world, it’s true that speculators have already rushed to apply for the trademarks for popular options, including the Cleveland Spiders and Cleveland Baseball Team. Publishing a list of finalist names could tip the team’s hand and prove costly.

But it could also be argued that most of the top prospects are out there, anyway, at least in speculation land, while giving fans a say will help them feel invested in leaving behind a team name that feels like a family member they’ve grown up with.

Our Editorial Board Roundtable offers its thoughts: More transparency, or stick with the Indians mystery naming process?

Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:

Very likely this was lawyered to block pre-emptive use by third parties of the baseball team’s potential trademarks, service marks or copyrights. Sports-related or -themed merchandise is a huge business, and the team surely wants to protect its potential profits — for the team’s owners, not for outside interests.

Ted Diadiun, columnist:

I find this entire process too depressing to devote much time to it. Almost 1,200 options? Are you kidding me? Building the decision around the ideas of artists, musicians and chefs? With all due respect, are you kidding me? I don’t care how many suggestions they come up with, my vote for the name is the same: How about “Indians?”

Victor Ruiz, editorial board member:

The team and ownership seem sincere and committed to do what is right, so I have no doubts that the name change will occur. This is a case where we must trust the process, and trust that they will keep their promise to change the name.

Lisa Garvin, editorial board member:

A list of 1,200 names means they are casting about wildly for a new team identity without the necessary vision or courage. In their quixotic quest to be all-inclusive, the Indians will end up pleasing no one while erasing a 120-year-old legacy. Might as well change the name to the Cleveland Milquetoasts and be done with it.

Mary Cay Doherty, editorial board member:

The Indians gave a small but vocal group outsized influence in the decision to jettison the current name. Now, at the very least, the team’s revenue-generating fans deserve a say in selecting the new name. Whittle the list internally, then let fans weigh in on top-tier choices. As a leadoff hitter, transparency just might score this process’s go-ahead run.

Elizabeth Sullivan, opinion director:

The Indians have to show their cards sometime. Do they really want to wait until they’ve made an internal decision, then spring that name on fans whose views have been pointedly excluded from the process — loyal Cleveland baseball fans made to feel irrelevant and disrespected? No. A lot more transparency is needed in this process.

— Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 12