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ADL praises Cleveland Indians’ name-change to Guardians: ‘A welcome step’

Watchdog says ‘it’s well past time for sports franchises to move away from demeaning and derogatory team names,’ after Major League Baseball team drops moniker

Manager Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians talks to members of the media during a press conference announcing the name change from the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field, on July 23, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Jason Miller/Getty Images/AFP)
Manager Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians talks to members of the media during a press conference announcing the name change from the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field, on July 23, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Jason Miller/Getty Images/AFP)

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) praised the Friday announcement from Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team that it is renaming itself the Guardians, dropping the more than century-old moniker of the Indians, which Native Americans and other critics saw as racist.

“It’s well past time for sports franchises to move away from demeaning and derogatory team names,” the ADL tweeted. “A welcome step from Cleveland’s baseball team, changing their team name, to ‘The Guardians.’ A name that preserves and honors the city and its history.”

The team made the announcement that it would dump the name it has used since 1915 in a video narrated by Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks.

It is the latest in a series of professional or university sports teams in the United States to yield to public pressure over offensive names and logos — ditching ones such as Redskins, Savages or Redmen — amid a national reckoning about racism and discrimination.

“It has always been Cleveland that is the best part of our name,” Hanks says in the video, which describes the Ohio city as proud of its sports heritage and eager to protect it.

“And now it’s time to unite as one family, one community — to build the next era for this team and this city,” he says.

“This is the city we love. And the game we believe in. And together we are all Cleveland Guardians,” it says, unveiling the new team logo, with music in the background from the Black Keys, a rock band formed in nearby Akron.

The change will take effect after the 2021 season ends.

The team first announced last summer that it would talk to community members and Native American groups about the possibility of a name change. In December, it formally said it would drop “Indians” and started a search for a new nickname.

As part of this process, more than 40,000 fans were surveyed.

The new name Guardians reflects a bit of local lore — so-called Guardians of Traffic carved into pylons at either end of a bridge over the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland.

The team’s colors will remain the same, and the new logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge.

The Guardians of Traffic sculptures on the Hope Memorial Bridge near Progressive Field are the inspiration for the renaming of the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians at the end of the 2021 season. (Jason Miller/Getty Images/AFP)

Native American groups welcomed the name change.

“With today’s announcement, the Cleveland baseball team has taken another important step forward in healing the harms its former mascot long caused Native people, in particular Native youth,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians.

In 2018, the Indians stopped using the controversial Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps. However, the team continues to sell merchandise bearing the smiling, red-faced caricature.

Manager Terry Francona said on Friday that the organization was showing respect to indigenous groups.

“We are trying to be the most respectful we can,” Francona said. “And it’s not about us, it’s about other people.”

The Cleveland Indians announce their name change to the Cleveland Guardians during a press conference at Progressive Field on July 23, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio (Jason Miller/Getty Images/AFP)

US politicians were divided over the decision, with the White House giving its support but former president Donald Trump berating the team.

“Can anybody believe that the Cleveland Indians, a storied and cherished baseball franchise since taking the name in 1915, are changing their name to the Guardians? Such a disgrace,” Trump said.

The most prominent name-changing case prior to this was the National Football League’s Washington team, which in 2020 dumped the nickname Redskins and its Indian head logo. The team has yet to settle on a new name.

Despite the move toward jettisoning names criticized as racist, many persist in big league sports in America, such as the Braves (baseball), Seahawks (football) and Blackhawks (hockey).

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