The Cleveland Indians announced Friday that they will be known as the Guardians at the end of the season, becoming the latest professional sports franchise to change its identity due to imagery and wording that many consider to be offensive.
The team announced the new nickname in a video posted on its Twitter account—which is currently @Indians. Outside of a few logo mock-ups, the unveiling was muted. It came on a Friday morning during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics, and it received barely any play on the team’s official website. There is currently no Guardians merchandise available for purchase.
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The name is a nod to Cleveland’s “Guardians of Traffic,” a series of sculptures on the Hope Memorial Bridge, which crosses the Cuyahoga River into downtown.
The franchise, which is owned by Paul Dolan, had already moved away from its Chief Wahoo logo that drew particular criticism. The franchise announced last year that it would begin speaking with fans and Native American groups about a potential name change, and according to its website, later surveyed more than 40,000 fans (a survey that explicitly said it was not asking for suggestions on a new name).
The Indians are not the only major pro franchise considering changes to its Native American imagery or mascot. The NFL team in Washington, D.C., dropped its Redskins moniker last year and is currently in the process of choosing a new name. College sports programs like the Florida State Seminoles are constantly under fire, and the Atlanta Braves have drawn criticism for their name and in-stadium chants.
These decisions are often about copyright and intellectual property as much as they are about local communities. Many options discussed publicly for the Indians, such as Spiders, Warriors, Slam and Squires, were all subjects of ongoing applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office.
The Cleveland team has been called in Indians since 1915; it won World Series titles in 1920 and 1948.