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.
After 105 years, the Ohio-based baseball team is changing its name, which has been criticized for being racist, the team confirmed in a statement provided to PEOPLE.
“In our statement in June 2020, we acknowledged the importance of taking a leadership role in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts across the community and enhancing our support for underserved and under-represented groups,” the statement said. “As part of that commitment, we heard from individuals and groups who shared a variety of views and opinions on the issue. We are deeply grateful for the interest and engagement from Native American communities, civic leaders, leading researchers, fans, corporate partners, players, and internal teammates devoted to these formal and informal conversations.”
The statement said, “After reflecting upon those discussions, we believe our organization is at its best when we can unify our community and bring people together – and we believe a new name will allow us to do this more fully.”
The team said the change will be a multi-phase process, and that “future decisions, including new name identification and brand development, are complex and will take time. While we work to identify a new and enduring franchise name, we will continue using the Indians name.”
The name change comes after the Cleveland team removed the Chief Wahoo logo from game jerseys and caps two years ago. The league said that the logo, which features a smiling Native American, is not appropriate for field use.
“Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement at the time. “Over the past year, we encouraged dialogue with the Indians organization about the club’s use of the Chief Wahoo logo. During our constructive conversations, [Indians owner] Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a long-standing attachment to the logo and its place in the history of the team.
“Nonetheless, the club ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball, and I appreciate Mr. Dolan’s acknowledgment that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course,” Manfred added.
Earlier this year, the Cleveland baseball team announced that they would look into the changing of the name, hours after the NFL’s Washington Football Team announced a similar move in July. Similar to the Washington team, Cleveland has faced pressure for years to change its name.
“We are committed to making a positive impact in our community and embrace our responsibility to advance social justice and equality,” a statement from the MLB team said on Twitter at the time. “Our organization fully recognizes our team name is among the most visible ways in which we connect with the community.”
Only four players in league history were teammates with both Jordan and James: Scott Williams, Larry Hughes, Jerry Stackhouse and Brendan Haywood. HoopsHype was able to connect with all four of them.
“I don’t think it would be fair to give a comparison on them,” Stackhouse, who only played seven games with James in 2010, told HoopsHype. “I played with LeBron at the prime of his career and I played with Michael in the last year of his career. I just think both are unbelievable players. They’re probably one and two in the history of the game. That’s where I’ll leave it.”
WHAT WERE YOUR EARLY IMPRESSIONS OF MICHAEL JORDAN?
Brendan Haywood: It was a learning experience. You got to see up-close what made him who he was. He was like 40 years old. He didn’t have anything to prove. But he was still one of the hardest workers. I would watch him teach Bobby Simmons the footwork to score in the mid-post. Everything he did was calculated. Nothing was done by accident. He was reading your lead foot. He understood where to go and how to get you off balance and get to his pull-up jumper and how to get your arm off of him if you were trying to be physical. Watching him, you got to learn a lot.
Larry Hughes: For me, growing up, I played basketball because of MJ. When I got a chance to play with him, I watched all of the small things that you don’t get to see when you are a fan. How did he conduct himself with the media? What time did he go to treatment? I learned how consistent he was with the game-planning and understanding how to get the job done even at an older age. He may have lost a step but he was still effective.
Scott Williams: One of the things that he liked to do was add aspects to his game. During my first two years in the league, he wanted to improve his low-post and back-to-basket game. We played a lot of 1-on-1 after practices. He would have someone throw the ball to him and he would catch it with a pivot foot on the block. He was working on trying to get around bigger, stronger players knowing that he would have no problem with someone his size. He had to learn to shoot with a hand in his face. I never beat him in one of those one-on-one sessions.
WHAT WERE YOUR EARLY IMPRESSIONS OF LEBRON?
Larry Hughes: As a young player, Bron had a good thought process. He was going to listen and apply the things that made the most sense to him. I can remember LeBron having conversations with a number of teammates on the plane and in the locker room, whether it be veteran guys or guys who were just joining the team. He kept a clean perspective on how everybody saw the game.
Scott Williams: He was always very strong, that’s for sure [Laughs] I remember early days in training camp, I prided myself on my defensive play. I only knew one way to play. I was often playing opposite LeBron during practice. One time he tried to drive down the middle of the lane and I stepped in front, off of my guy, to take a charge. I was clearly in position. He ran into me with a force that I had not felt in quite some time. My first thought was that I hope I didn’t hurt this kid. My next thought was that I hope this kid didn’t hurt me.
Brendan Haywood: When I was in Dallas, LeBron was thinking about going to Miami. Before he went to the Heat, he was recruiting guys to come to Cleveland. I get a text from a number that I don’t know. It’s LeBron. He says: “What’s up, this is King James.” It was a little weird he called himself King James but I kept going. He told me he was trying to get guys to come to the Cavs. He said he knew that they could not give me what I was going to get in the market. But he wanted to know if I would be willing to take a pay cut to be a part of something special. I wouldn’t have taken a pay cut to play with the ’92 Bulls. Buddy, you’re making $100 million off the court! This is my last hurrah! I hadn’t made enough money in my career to take a pay cut and chase a championship. I’d played so many playoff series against him that I saw him as another player. If you play in the league, you look at guys a little differently. He was younger than I was. I looked at him like he was anybody else.
HOW DID MICHAEL JORDAN IMPACT WINNING FOR YOUR TEAM?
Scott Williams: I saw him MJ go from no championships to three. He had mellowed some. [Laughs] Not to say that on game day he didn’t have that smoldering beast side of him. But it wasn’t that all-encompassing thing where every time you were around this cat it was like in October 1990. I’d be curious, for the guys who played with him in Washington, what he was like when he was in practices. I don’t know if it was anything like he was when I was in training camp my rookie year.
Larry Hughes: MJ played in the triangle offense. His attention to detail was understanding angles at a high level. If he didn’t operate the triangle, the job didn’t get done. Bron is similar in his ability to remember and break down the plays. When he is able to see those things, whether it is at a timeout or at halftime, he is able to rely on the information that he downloaded to execute what is needed to happen. It is different based on where they were in their careers when I played with them.
Brendan Haywood: We were a team that based our whole offense around a 40-year-old, aging superstar and we were trying to make the No. 8 seed in the playoffs. At the time, I was thinking that I was just out there hooping. But as I got older, that may have been one of the dumbest ways to ever build a team. You should be featuring your young guys, letting them play, take their knocks and lumps and letting them develop.
HOW DID LEBRON IMPACT WINNING?
Brendan Haywood: The thing that they most have in common is that they impact winning. But they go about in totally different ways. That is why it’s so unfair that LeBron is always compared to Mike. He doesn’t play like Mike! He wasn’t trying to fully dominate like Mike! LeBron wants to play an overall floor game. Bron is more like Magic Johnson but with next-level athleticism. That allows him to do incredible things. LeBron wants to get the 8, 9, 10 assists. He wants to get the rebounds. He wants to get his 26, 27 points. He isn’t just worried about scoring, though. He’s not trying to destroy you. He’s not worried about how many buckets he gets.
Scott Williams: This was an odd year. 2020 sucks. Let’s just get it straight. But with the disjointed season, it threw a lot of the teams off of their games. That’s the thing about LeBron and his leadership. When it did start back, he was able to get his team re-energized and re-focused. The players on the floor have the biggest impact on how hard a team is going to play every night. The coaches will draw up the plays but if the guys aren’t locked on, let’s just face it, some of the execution is sloppy. When you have a stud like that who’s got that championship pedigree, and you have a thirsty young player in Anthony Davis who has yet to wear that ring, you can really get everybody on the same page.
WHAT DO YOU SAY WHEN YOU ARE ASKED ABOUT COMPARISONS?
Brendan Haywood: One of the more interesting things is that I had the GOAT conversation with LeBron. We were on the plane and I told him: “I love you, brother, but I have to go with Mike.” I told him my reasons. I’ve had this conversation with him face-to-face. Six rings. Six MVPs. The guy has had two different three-peats and has never been to a Game 7. He was MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. I played with both of them and what LeBron has slowly but surely turned into from a confidence standpoint, MJ was that the first time he walked in the league. LeBron has gotten so much better at that. He has grown into a guy that close out games. Michael always had that ability. Michael always competed defensively. Both of those guys are incredible competitors. They do things differently. The biggest difference is that MJ is a cold-blooded killer. He is an assassin. LeBron is more respected and loved. He is loved by his teammates and he is respected by his opponents. So when we had the GOAT debate, LeBron was just kind of nodding his head. He didn’t really say much. Mike Miller and James Jones said some things on his behalf. I don’t think LeBron agreed with me. But at that point, he hadn’t beaten Golden State. He didn’t have the ring he just got with the Lakers.
Scott Williams: The thing that I hate the most is that comparisons are being drawn and I don’t care which way you stand on it. They are two absolutely phenomenal players and I hate when someone says that one is the GOAT and one isn’t. It’s almost like a knock on the one that you say is not the GOAT. I don’t really like to get into that game. I’ve been forced into that corner where I’ve had to make that choice a few times and I will say Michael is the greatest of all time, in my opinion, from being in the locker room with both of them. But I didn’t get LeBron at the top of his game. I got him when he was still developing. We’re not as close but I still consider LeBron a friend. As a basketball commentator and as a fan, obviously, I have followed LeBron. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate all that LeBron has done and overcome.
Larry Hughes: LeBron had the same attention to detail that MJ had. He was focused on the things that happened before him and how he could enhance the game that was played before him. He was a student of the game. He understands how basketball players play and how they get their job done. The opportunity to have played with both of those guys was amazing. You see similarities in how they pay attention to detail. It’s film. It’s muscle memory. They had the ability to make adjustments based on what happened.
In this clip, Charles Oakley and Tim Hardaway reacted to statistics that NBA players typically go broke within 5 years after leaving the league. Charles stated that he wasn’t sure about players going broke around that time, and he went on to speak about the various businesses that he’s started over the years. He also warned players against trusting their agents completely to look after their money. Tim then went to speak about the “Dream Dribble” product that he’s been working on, and you can watch the ad above.
Kyrie Irving’s Nike logo is nice. The letter I is split into two halves. It was intended to symbolize a Roman numeral 2. #2 was unavailable when he was a Celtic, and he settled for #11 (high school) which still works since the two halves in the logo also look like a number 11.