After more than a year of deliberation, the Cleveland Indians baseball team has decided on a new name — the Cleveland Guardians, with a name script that looks quite a bit like “Indians” but with a little more angularity.
The change — which won’t take effect until next year’s season — was announced on Twitter Friday morning, with a video narrated by Cleveland baseball fan and former Cleveland actor Tom Hanks.
Team officials said the team wasn’t being named directly after the Guardians of Traffic pillars on the iconic bridge next to Progressive Field, as had been advocated by some readers in letters to the editor — although that connection inevitably will be drawn.
Columnist Terry Pluto labeled the name as “safe and rather boring,” while acknowledging there could have been worse choices — and that safe was likely the goal. He also noted in a cleveland.com column Friday that, “The Guardians fit with ‘Guard The Land,’ as Cleveland is sometimes known as ‘The Land.’”
The Indians will retain their old name through this season, then the switch before next season.
The new name was hailed by members of Indigenous communities in Cleveland, where some with Native American heritage had long been outraged by the grinning “Chief Wahoo” logo, sidelined after the 2018 season, but also by the Indians name. However, many fans — perhaps hoping to keep the Indians name, or at least the “Tribe” nickname — were disappointed or outright critical.
Still, the Dolan family, owners of the team, had made clear months ago that, in making the decision to change the name in response to modern-day sensitivities about racial and tribal nicknames chosen in a time of overt prejudice and stereotyping, they would not be reversing course.
So what does our Editorial Board Roundtable think about the Guardians?
Leila Atassi, managing producer, public interest and advocacy:
The endurance of the Indians moniker — despite decades of protests by Indigenous people — spoke to white America’s passive approval of cultural artifacts that communities of color find deeply offensive. We should be proud to cheer on the Guardians. It’s a truly honorable name that refrains from exploiting an already marginalized population.
Ted Diadiun, columnist:
So … what’s next? Changing the name of our NFL team to the Cleveland Pinks? This rips away the historic connection with the team, especially for old guys like me. The best thing I can say about it is that it could have been worse – but it still sounds more like a Cleveland entry in the Arena Football League.
Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:
The team’s new name is excellent in every way and should at long last end mention, perhaps even memories, of the offensive Chief Wahoo caricature.
Eric Foster, columnist:
In the words of Sam Cooke, “It’s been a loooooonggg….long time coming…” I’m happy the team made the change. If that NFL team in D.C. could summon the strength to change, so could we. If you dislike the name, remember that the name isn’t important. “Cleveland” has always been, and always will be, the brand.
Lisa Garvin, editorial board member:
As someone who wishes the Dolans had stuck to their guns on the name, I’ll continue buying gear with the Indians name before the legacy is erased for good. But Guardians is the least objectionable of the proposed names and has a great Cleveland connection. At least Guardians sounds like Indians.
Elizabeth Sullivan, opinion director:
Practically speaking, if the Indians name had to go, this was the best option. In changing its name, the team is looking to the future. As wrenching as this decision will be for fans, the Guardians — with its similar sound and script to Indians — should make it easier to take, in time. And bringing greater attention to those wonderful and iconic Art Deco bridge sculptures nearby will be a bonus.
— Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 24