Cleveland Indians Latest Team to Search for New Identity
Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org)
2020 has been... different. The year of the corona virus has had more than a few hiccups as we've journeyed through the spring and summer seasons, but the temperature isn't the only thing heating up.
In the sports world, very few things have the power to influence brand exposure as a professional sports organization's nickname. For most relevant professional sports organizations, their nicknames have not changed since the inception of their brand, many spanning half a decade or more. For the MLB team residing in Cleveland, it's been 105 years.
Before the year 1915, the baseball team was nicknames the Cleveland Naps, after star player Nap Lajoie. When Lajoie was shipped off to another team, the team decided to re-brand to the "Indians."
It would take another thirty-two years before the "Indians" would solidify this controversial image with their iconic "Chief Wahoo" logo, depicting a Native American chief wearing a large red feather on his head. Although their logo had depicted a Native American as early as 1932, the actual "Chief Wahoo" logo would not be finalized until 1947 by artist Walter Goldbach, and commissioned by then "Indians" owner, Bill Veech.
Since the mid-1900's, those opposed to the identity and fans of the organization alike have disputed and protested this issue. This led to the first compromise by the organization when their logo was, "altered slightly to make the nose smaller and make the logo more red." (https://www.cleveland.com/metro/2018/01/cleveland_indians_chief_wahoo_2.html)
From this altercation in 1951 until 2018, the Cleveland team did little to nothing to appease the protests, spanning the tenure of 10 different General Managers and Team Owners. This unprecedented span of nirvana was finally terminated when in 2018, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the team would be changing their logo after that season.
Only two years later and the team has faced continuous backlash about their identity, backlash very similar to another sports team about 400 miles away; the Washington Redskins. This iconic football team based in Washington D.C. has had the same identity protests due to it's caricature of Native Americans in their logos and nicknames.
On July 3rd, 2020 the Washington Redskins front office led by Owner Dan Snyder released a statement saying they would have an internal review of the team's identity with the intention of retiring the nickname "Redskins" and their longtime logo depicting a Native American. This was a monumental news story as the football franchise has a very long and rich history that led most people to believe the team's identity would never be changed.
Once the Washington football team announced their eventual name change, the Cleveland baseball team was next. The speculation and media pressure to change professional sports team's nicknames that are insensitive to parts of the population is a statement, that sports teams have no business being discriminant or oblivious any longer.
The Cleveland baseball team may be expected to make a decision as early as Thursday July 23rd; Opening Day in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. Three nicknames that have been speculated are the "Cleveland Steel", "Cleveland Guardians", and "Cleveland Spiders". All nicknames have a tie with the city of Cleveland and would be appropriate as well as catchy for the historic franchise.
The Cleveland Indians have as historic a legacy as any major team in MLB history. They haven't won a World Series since 1948 sure... but 105 years of consistency has earned the team the respect of a great ball club. However, this club has been oblivious or close-minded for far too long in terms of being responsible with their identity. It seems as though they've finally reached the point where they want to better themselves. For a team that's been around 105 years, a fresh start to please it's fans will be very admirable