Known as the Indians since 1915, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will next be called the Guardians.
The ballclub announced the name change Friday with a video on Twitter narrated by actor Tom Hanks, ending months of internal discussions triggered by a national reckoning by institutions and teams to permanently drop logos and names considered racist.
The name change is effective at the end of the 2021 season.
Cleveland’s new name was inspired by the large landmark stone edifices — referred to as traffic guardians — that flank both ends of the Hope Memorial Bridge, which connects downtown to Ohio City. As the team moved closer to making a final decision on the name, team owner Paul Dolan said he found himself looking closely at the huge art deco sculptures.
“Frankly, I hadn’t studied them that closely until we started talking about them and I should emphasize, we’re not named after the bridge, but there’s no question that it’s a strong nod to those and what they mean to the community,” he said following a news conference at the ballpark.
The organization spent most of the past year whittling down a list of potential names that was at nearly 1,200 just over a month ago. But the process, which the team said included 140 hours of interviews with fans, community leaders, front-office personnel and a survey of 40,000 fans, quickly accelerated, and the club landed on Guardians.
Dolan has said last summer’s social unrest, touched off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, spurred his intention to change the club’s name.
“We do feel like we’re doing the right thing and that’s what’s driving this,” Dolan said. “I know some people disagree, but if anything I’ve gotten more and more comfortable that we’re headed in the right direction.
“And actually, the selection of the name solidifies that feeling because of the values that the name represents.”
The team’s colors will remain the same, and the new Guardians logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge.
In 2018, the Indians stopped wearing the contentious Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps. However, the team continues to sell merchandise bearing the smiling, red-faced caricature that has drawn protests from Native American groups for decades.
Cleveland’s change comes as the Washington Football Team continues to work toward a similar makeover. Washington recently said it will reveal a new name and logo in 2022.