Cleveland’s name change is part of a broader movement to change or revisit casual use of Native American symbols, particularly within sports and schools.
It is only the latest step for the team, which has been gradually deemphasizing these elements on its uniforms and visual identity for several years. But it is the most significant step for the team since 2018 when it retired its mascot, Chief Wahoo, that it had used for decades.
A number of Republicans decried the name change as evidence of overbearing political correctness, including former President Donald Trump.
He said the team, which last won a World Series in 1948, was soiling their “storied and cherished baseball franchise” in changing the name they had used for over a century. He also claimed that few Native Americans objected to the team name.
“Wouldn’t it be an honor to have a team named the Cleveland Indians, and wouldn’t it be disrespectful to rip that name and logo off of those jerseys?” Trump said in a statement.
Trump was similarly piqued during his presidency when the Washington Football Team change its name in the midst of last year’s racial justice protests.
“They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct,” Trump stated at the time.
In a pair of tweets Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked “[w]hy does MLB hate Indians” and mockingly pointed to the use of other ethnically derived sports team names that have generated less controversy. “As someone who’s nearly half Irish, PLEASE don’t change the name of the Celtics,” Cruz wrote on Twitter.
Josh Mandel, a Republican running for Ohio’s open Senate seat next year, argued that “liberals, not Indians” are the ones who are offended by such team names.
“Goodbye history and tradition, hello woke political correctness,” Mandel tweeted.
Ohio’s other senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown — who on his campaign twitter describes himself as a “Cleveland baseball fan” — signaled his support for the new team name, which is based on the stone statues stationed on Cleveland’s Hope Memorial Bridge known as the “Guardians of Traffic.”
“’We hold tight to our roots, and set our sights on tomorrow.’ Let’s go Guardians #OurCLE,” Brown wrote on Twitter.