Cleveland, Ohio, Jul 23 (EFE).- Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians will soon drop the controversial nickname the franchise has used for more than a century, saying Friday the team will be called the Cleveland Guardians after the end of the 2021 season.
Known as the Indians since 1915, the franchise announced late last year that nickname – deemed offensive to Native Americans – would be used for one final season.
A search was launched for a new name, which was unveiled Friday in a video posted on the team’s Twitter account and narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks, a big fan of the franchise dating to his time as an intern at a Cleveland-based theater company.
The announcement brings an end to a months-long internal debate triggered by activists’ calls for institutions and sports teams to permanently eliminate logos and nicknames considered racist or offensive.
Even so, the choice of the name Guardians will surely be criticized by many of the team’s fans.
The organization spent much of the past year whittling down a long list of names that still numbered close to 1,200 just over a month ago.
That process accelerated recently, however, and the team decided on Guardians, a name that refers to the famed sandstone statues (known as the “Guardians of Traffic”) that flank both ends of the Hope Memorial Bridge, a roadway that spans the Cuyahoga River and links downtown Cleveland to the metropolis’ Ohio City neighborhood.
The team’s principal owner, Paul Dolan, said the impetus for his decision to pursue a name change was the wave of civil unrest that followed last summer’s death in Minneapolis, Minnesota, of George Floyd, an African-American man who perished after a white police officer knelt on his neck more than nine minutes.
Even before deciding to drop the name Indians, the franchise removed the Chief Wahoo logo – a smiling, red-skinned cartoon figure deemed offensive to American Indians – from its uniforms and caps.
But it did not stop selling merchandise featuring that logo, which was used from 1951 to 2018 despite being the target of protests by Native Americans for decades.
US former President Donald Trump has harshly criticized US sports franchises for changing names deemed offensive, having slammed Washington DC’s football franchise (currently known only as the Washington Football Team) for dropping the name Redskins.
On Friday he released a statement after the name Guardians was chosen.
“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 in a statement Friday. “And I guarantee that the people who are most angry about it are the many Indians of our Country.”
“A small group of people, with absolutely crazy ideas and policies, is forcing these changes to destroy our culture and heritage. At some point, the people will not take it anymore!” the ex-president said.
But the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said President Joe Biden was in favor of the team’s move.
“We certainly support their change of name,” Psaki said at her daily press briefing Friday before tossing in a jab at Trump and his ban from Twitter and Facebook.
“We may be on the other side of the president – former president – on that front, I would guess. I haven’t seen his tweet, or however he’s communicating these days,” she added. EFE