Cleveland Indians to consider changing franchise's nickname

By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) - The Cleveland Indians followed the lead of the NFL's Washington Redskins on Friday as the Major League Baseball club said it too will consider changing a team nickname that has been in place for 105 years.

The Indians, who have come under fire in the past for their controversial nickname, said the recent social unrest in the United States has underscored the need to improve as an organization on issues of social justice.

"We are committed to making a positive impact in our community and embrace our responsibility to advance social justice and equality," the team said in a statement.

"Our organization fully recognizes our team name is among the most visible ways in which we connect with the community."

The Indians, who are set to begin their 2020 season in late July amid the COVID-19 outbreak, also said it is committed to acting in a manner that can best unite and inspire all those who support the Cleveland team.

The announcement by the Indians came hours after the NFL's Redskins said that in light of recent events around the United States and feedback from the community that it will conduct a thorough review of the name.

A push to eliminate racially insensitive material has intensified following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis.

In 2018, the Indians announced plans to remove the grinning "Chief Wahoo" logo from their uniforms beginning in the 2019 season in a bow to critics who have long assailed the image as a racist Native American caricature.

The team still feature the logo, a cartoon figure with red skin, a toothy smile and a feather in his headband, on merchandise sold in their stores in northeast Ohio and in Goodyear, Arizona, where the Indians hold spring training.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Dan Grebler)