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Cleveland's baseball team is changing name to the Guardians

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Key Points
  • Cleveland's Major League Baseball team has decided to call itself the Guardians, the franchise announced Friday.
  • The team had for years faced pressure to drop the racially offensive name it has been known as for more than a century.
  • The change was announced in a video on Twitter narrated by Oscar winner Tom Hanks, who worked in Cleveland early in his acting career and starred in the women's baseball movie "A League of Their Own."
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MLB's Cleveland Indians to become the Guardians, starting in 2022

Cleveland's Major League Baseball team will change its name to Guardians, the franchise announced Friday, dropping the racially offensive name it has been known as for more than a century.

The change was announced in a video on Twitter narrated by Oscar winner Tom Hanks, who worked in Cleveland early in his acting career and starred in the women's baseball movie "A League of Their Own."

The name Guardians is a reference to well-known art deco statues located on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, which spans the Cuyahoga River and connects downtown Cleveland to the city's trendy Ohio City neighborhood. Those statues are known as the "Guardians of Traffic."

The franchise, which announced the name change in a tweet Friday morning, had long faced pressure from activists locally and nationally to ditch the name "Indians," which critics said was racist. It had been the baseball club's name since 1915.

The announcement did not say when it goes into effect. However, MLB.com reported that will happen for next season. The franchise is in second place in the American League Central.

The NFL's Washington Football Team last year dropped its former name, which was decried as demeaning to Native Americans, as corporate backlash intensified. The franchise adopted Washington Football Team on a temporary basis, playing last season under that name. It will continue to be known as the Washington Football Team for the 2021 campaign.

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Washington's football team president on name change and addressing team culture

The Washington Post reported earlier this month that a new name and logo for the NFL team will be announced in early 2022.

At a press conference Friday, Cleveland's team owner Paul Dolan said the organization hopes Guardians will "divert us from a divisive path" and eventually be embraced by the entire fanbase and region.

"We acknowledge the name change will be difficult for some of us, and the transition will take time," said Dolan, who noted he grew up in Northeast Ohio and had always rooted for the team under its old moniker. "Those memories do not diminish with a new name," he added.

In December, the Cleveland baseball team said it would change its name after the 2021 season, a move seen by some as long overdue. Protests by Native American activists outside the team's stadium had for years been commonplace, particularly on opening day.

The franchise moved away from its longtime "Chief Wahoo" logo after the 2018 season, with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred saying at the time it was "no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball."

In a post Friday, the team explained the name Guardians: "To protect, to keep watch, to defend. For Clevelanders, this is a way of life. We fight together for what we believe in. And if we get knocked down, we pick each other right back up and keep fighting. We're resilient, hard working and loyal — to this city and to each other. That's what it means to be Cleveland Guardians."

The organization said it surveyed more than 40,000 fans about potential names and conducted more than 140 hours of interviews with supporters, front office members and community leaders in northeast Ohio. The team's primary colors of navy blue and red will stay the same.

"Our fans are at the heart of this decision. We heard this name often from our fans as a top contender because of it's connection to the iconic Cleveland landmark," the franchise statement said.

The bridge that features the "Guardians of Traffic" is near Progressive Field, where the team plays, and imagery of the statues has been printed on T-shirts. A popular local brewery, Market Garden, has even adopted them as part of its logo.

The Cleveland franchise has been around since 1901, when it was called the Blues. The following season its name became Broncos, then it was known as the Cleveland Naps from 1903 to 1914 in reference to player-manager Nap Lajoie. It was changed to the current name after Lajoie was traded.