Roundtable: Will the Indians Change Their Name by 2021, If So What Will the New Nickname Be?

Matt Loede

With the news that the NFL's Washington Redskins were holding meetings to try and figure out if they should scrap their team nickname for something not as offensive to some, you knew it was a matter of time before the "Indians" of the Cleveland Indians would be next.

That's exactly what took place Friday evening when The Athletic released a story that talked about the Indians having internal meetings to discuss if a name change is something that needs to happen with the franchise sooner than later.

The team itself released a statement Friday night via twitter confirming that they indeed were having discussions about a potential name change, setting off a firestorm on social media among fans.

While we had that coverage for you all weekend long, one thing that we had not done yet is get our staff together for a roundtable to see where they stood and if there was one name they preferred over the others.

Here's the answers they gave:

Alex Hooper

Whether or not a name change happens should be up to the demographic concerned. Full stop.

There are many factors at play here, none of which regard the “tradition” of the baseball team, rather how the descendants of indigenous people of North America wish to be honored.

First, do they feel that a professional sports team carrying their nomenclature is honoring them, or exploiting them?

Second, how do they wish to be referred to? Through a personal attempt to crowdsource this feeling, I heard from a man claiming indigenous heritage who said his people prefer “American Indian.”

He also said that he does not want the visibility of his people to go away with the change of nickname. If this is the consensus, that is a great start, and the two sides can get to work on how to best honor their people.

But very similar to baseball, sample size matters. The organization should receive a delegation from the Cleveland American Indian Movement, the North American Indian Cultural Center, the Lake Erie Native American Council, and any other native group that wants a seat at the table.

They will likely have differing opinions, and this is the opportunity to hear all of them. There is plenty of brand equity in the Cleveland Indians, but there has probably never been a better time to rebrand sincerely, successfully, and profitably.

Again, the last part should not matter in the grand scheme, but it will.

So, will the name be changed? Two days ago, before the team announced their intentions to reconsider, I would have said yes.

Now after they have initiated things, and I have investigated it a little more, I am not so sure. Facts and primary sources are fun in that they can help shape these viewpoints.

If the indigenous community decides they do not want their identity aligned with the team, then I have long pined for the organization to use this opportunity to be unique. Ditch the American-style nickname within the brand, name yourselves “Cleveland Baseball Club,” slap CLEVELAND in big letters across everything, and profit.

The nickname does not have to go away. For example, my English soccer fandom belongs to Tottenham Hotspur. Guess what their nickname is? The Lilywhites. Does anyone call them that?

No. We say “Spurs.” The point being, even if the Cleveland Baseball Club’s name is just that, you can still call them “the Tribe,” or whatever you prefer. That way, people are not forced to constantly say or write something they do not know is morally justified.

The preferred nickname will emerge and stick over time, yet the team is still CLEVELAND. I will also accept the Spiders, Guardians, or a few of the other names suggested recently.

Ultimately, if the indigenous community wishes to be recognized, doing so in good faith should absolutely be the top priority.

Casey Drottar

My guess is Cleveland’s baseball team doesn’t have a brand new nickname heading into the 2021 campaign. However, those still upset with the franchise’s decision to consider a name change shouldn’t see this as a reason to take a victory lap.

Make no mistake, a new nickname is coming.

By proactively putting out last Friday night’s statement, insisting that the club was working to determine the best path forward regarding its name, it started the timer. Any sense of feet-dragging on the decision will be called out, as will any indication the statement was released simply to satisfy people for the time being without actually giving a nickname change any real consideration.

At the same time, conducting a full rebrand isn’t an overnight process, unless that gigantic Indians marquee in left field just snaps right off. Since the demand for change isn’t going anywhere, Cleveland will likely take the same route with its nickname as it did with Chief Wahoo.

I believe the team will announce this winter that the following season (2021) will be the farewell tour for its current nickname before a new one is introduced in 2022.

This way, Cleveland will confirm an update is indeed coming, ensuring this past weekend’s statement doesn’t come off as nothing but hollow PR. It’ll also give itself enough time to ensure said update isn’t rushed.

What will the new nickname be? Tough to say.

I saw plenty suggest “The Guardians” as a hat tip to the Hope Memorial Bridge. It wouldn’t blow me away, but I could make peace with it.

Frankly, I admit I’d feel the same about “The Spiders.”

Yes, I know, that was technically a different team, one which was also astonishingly terrible. Still, Clevelanders have no issue continually supporting the local football franchise despite years of ineptitude, so the Spiders’ lack of on-field success is no excuse to reject that suggestion.

I’ll just bet it's one of these two. I can’t say for sure which of these options feels more likely. I just know that, whatever route the team takes, it won’t be to continue using the nickname “Indians.”

Zach Shafron

I believe the Cleveland Indians will not change the name by 2021. It is not a derogatory term like Washington's football team has for its team name.

Additionally, the Chief Wahoo logo has already been removed and that was what was most offense. If the team does choose to change names, it should go back to Spiders or Rockers.

Matt Loede

With the changes in our society and trying to be better it's no surprise that there's pressure from a number of sides to try and change the name.

With still a lot of questions about if a 60-game season is even going to happen in 2020, there could be plenty of time this offseason to come up with a game plan for a transition for a new name.

I have always liked the idea of letting the fan base be the ones to pick the new name, but again with the fact there is a number of people who don't want it changed, it might be wise not to go that route.

Instead, I would do as much research as possible to try and make sure the direction they go in will in the least satisfy everyone and try to bring people together.

With that, I think the name "Guardians" fits perfectly not only for the team but for the city and one that we can be proud of.    

Mark Warmuth

Obviously, this is a very emotional thing for many people, but in reality, we can see that it is time for a change. And the Cleveland organization can be in the forefront for change.

It doesn’t seem likely the team will be called the Indians when MLB begins play in 2021. So, we would start the search for a new name by eliminating one’s we don’t care for.

A popular choice on social media has been “Spiders”, but the 1899 version of that name went 20-134, the worst record in professional baseball history. And their best finish was second.

The name “Buckeyes” does have ties to the Negro League franchise in the city, but it is also the same name as Ohio State, so we’d stay away from that.

I would propose just using “Baseball Club”, yes, the Cleveland Baseball Club. You could have interesting logos using CBC, and it is a nod to the origins of the sport, and a bit of an anti-nickname stand as well.

Chris Coon

I’m not sure if the Indians will change their team name by 2021, but I definitely think there’s a good chance that when this current decade ends Cleveland has a new baseball team name.

As for new names, I am open to anything, but would prefer they stay away from the whole Rock and Roll thing. It is unoriginal and has started to become more of a cliché than anything.

Anytime there’s a major sporting event a guitar always seems to be incorporated in it. I get it, Cleveland has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the city also has more to offer than just that anecdote.

Does the name even have to be connected with the city? I mean, the Cavs’ name was chosen from a contest. There’s no direct city connection to that name other than the fact some guy thought that sounded best and submitted it to the contest being held to name the NBA team.

Whatever name the Indians eventually chose, will be much better than the current one. I understand we have all become accustomed to the name, as it is the only thing we have ever known, but it is also extremely racist.

It is really no different than the team being called “The Cleveland Mexicans” or “The Cleveland Africans”. The name needs to be changed, and I am all for it.


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