Cleveland Indians are on the verge of changing the nickname that they have used for over a century, moving away from a moniker that is now considered as insensitive towards Native Americans. Media reports have indicated that the move could come as soon as this week.
That leaves it unclear how the team will refer to itself during the 2021 MLB season. It may retain the name for another year before making a change to a new identity. The franchise may opt to simply be called the Cleveland Baseball Team, in a move that would mimic that of the NFL franchise in Washington, DC.
Since dropping its offensive nickname in July, that team has been known as the Washington Football Team. After the NFL franchise made that announcement, the Cleveland team made a statement indicating that they were considering making a change.
The move comes two years after the Cleveland franchise moved away from its Chief Wahoo logo. In 2019, the team took the field for the first time with no reference to the logo on its uniform. A small number of merchandise items bearing the logo are still sold so that the franchise can retain control of its copyright.
Originally they played as the Blues
The Cleveland franchise was founded in 1901 and was originally called the Blues. The team was also known as the Bronchos and the Naps before adopting the Indians moniker in 1915. Several suggestions for a name to replace the name ‘Indians’ have been mooted.
These include ‘Spiders’, which is what a National League franchise in Cleveland was called in the late 19th century. Another possibility is to re-use the ‘Naps’, after the legendary player Nap Lajoie. He was the American League’s first superstar player and gave the Cleveland team its name for several years.
Other suggestions have included the ‘Rockers’ as the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame is located in Cleveland, and the ‘Dobys’ – after the American League’s first black player Larry Doby, a Hall of Famer who played for Cleveland in the 1940s. Blues could also be re-used, or possibly adapted into Blue Sox, which would fit nicely in with a baseball tradition of team names including ‘Sox’.
No move yet for Braves
Although Cleveland and the Washington NFL team have moved away from nicknames that are now considered offensive, there is as yet no indication that another MLB franchise, the Atlanta Braves, are set to follow suit. In the summer, the Georgia team released a statement that asserted that the club “honors, supports, and values the Native American community. That will never change.”
The franchise’s use of the ‘tomahawk chop’ gesture as a way of showing support has also come under increasing scrutiny. The team has used the name since 1912, when it was still based in Boston. The team retained the name during periods when it was located in Milwaukee prior to moving to Atlanta in 1966.