It’s not if. It’s when.
I’m talking, of course, about the idea of Cleveland’s baseball team changing its nickname.
It’s a conversation which has lasted longer than some are willing to acknowledge, but one which found itself in the spotlight earlier this month.
When the franchise publicly announced it was having discussions about the “best path forward with regard to our name,” the idea of Cleveland no longer being called ‘the Indians’ suddenly felt more realistic than ever.
Yet, there were still many fans who loudly declared their displeasure. Who held out hope that, despite the team’s announcement, there was still a possibility this ordeal ended with no updates being made.
After this past week, I’m not sure how anyone could sell themselves on that belief anymore. All Cleveland has done across the past few days is confirm a change is practically inevitable.
When word first broke about Cleveland officially reevaluating its nickname, shock was not an emotion I felt. As I noted at the time, this was a conversation which felt unavoidable.
However, nothing was confirmed. While I felt it safe to assume this was the first step towards a new nickname, all the team did was announce it was considering the best path forward.
This appeared to give credence to those who felt as though another route was available. It seemed more than a few fans believed that, if enough vitriol was voiced in opposition, perhaps the name ‘Indians’ would stick around.
However, even though nothing has been made official regarding Cleveland’s nickname, the steps the team has taken towards making a change are impossible to ignore.
First, we had the meeting owner Paul Dolan hosted with his players to discuss, among several topics, the team’s ability to use its platform to address social justice and racial equality.
It was a meeting he detailed within a statement he released Thursday, one which also included a note about his plans to “engage Native American leaders to better understand their perspectives.” Considering these voices have been among the loudest in support of changing the team name, it’s difficult to believe Dolan will hear much support for keeping the status quo.
One of the biggest developments, though, occurred at the club's season opener Friday night, when the players hit the field purposefully wearing road jerseys devoid of the word ‘Indians.’ The decision, per shortstop Francisco Lindor, was made with a purpose.
“We hope that’s a start of change,” Lindor told local media. “We know change is due, and it is time. But I believe positive change can happen.
“Shining the light on those minorities and people who are in need, it’s extremely important. Today, by wearing the 'Cleveland' jersey, that’s what we’re doing out there, bringing the spotlight on those people, minorities that need the spotlight on them so their voices can be heard.”
Per Zack Meisel of The Athletic, several members of the team were unsure if this statement could be made beyond the season opener, if league guidelines would force them back into their normal home uniforms as soon as Saturday.
Regardless, the message was received.
By making last night’s statement, by announcing the franchise’s plans to meet with those who’ve long expressed their displeasure with the nickname, Cleveland has all but confirmed it won’t be referred to as ‘the Indians’ much longer.
What we saw this week was not a veiled attempt to appease the masses while quietly hoping things calm down. These aren’t steps which occur just to bring us right back to where we started.
No, as Lindor stated, this was the franchise’s way of acknowledging it’s time for a change. It was Cleveland telling those who’ve long been opposed to the nickname -- and who continued making that fact known outside the stadium Friday night -- that their voices are being heard now more than ever.
As a result, the outcome of this scenario now feels like a near certainty.
There’s no mystery anymore. Things aren’t staying as is. A nickname change is on the way, it’s just a matter of when that takes place.