Cleveland baseball team’s name change sparks hopes other teams follow suit

Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team unveiled its new name and logo on Friday, and some Indigenous sports fans hope other teams follow suit.

“If the pro teams are willing to do it, where there’s billions of dollars at stake because they have to change everything, all their merchandise . . .  it’s going to kind of create that snowball effect with school teams,” said Curtis Howson.

Howson, who is Anishinaabe from Crane River First Nation in Manitoba, owns a sports collectibles store in Winnipeg and grew up playing in Indigenous baseball leagues in the city.

At one point, he used to wear the Cleveland baseball team’s merchandise but said his view on it shifted over the years.

“It was almost like a statement,” he said.

“The Indigenous people — we kind of embraced it at one time. [But] It took some time to understand and it was more or less being ignorant to what it could represent to other people.”

Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will now be known as the Guardians after spending most of the past year whittling down a list of potential names that was at nearly 1,200 just over a month ago. (Twitter/@BaseballAmerica)

He said he likes the new Guardians name and logo and that he appreciates franchises like the CFL’s Edmonton football club changing its name to the Elks.

“I would like to say that it should have been changed years ago, but people weren’t ready for that kind of change yet,” said Howson.

Name change welcomed

Tara Houska, who is Anishinaabe from Couchiching First Nation in Ontario, is a lawyer and co-founder of Not Your Mascots, an organization committed to educating the public about the harms of stereotypes about Indigenous people, said she welcomes the change. 

She said it’s time for sports fans who are clinging to racist team names to listen to the voices of Indigenous people.

“We are living cultures, not mascots to be used as playthings,” Houska wrote in a Facebook message to CBC News.

“A caricature is not honour and honour is not unilaterally imposed.”

Crystal Echo Hawk, executive director and founder of Illuminative, a U.S. non-profit that aims to increase visibility of Native Americans in American society and challenge negative portrayals, released a statement Friday that Cleveland’s name and logo change is “a major step towards righting the wrongs committed against Native peoples, and is one step towards change.”

The statement also questioned how long it will take for fellow MLB team Atlanta Braves, the National Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs, and the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks to follow suit.

The Cleveland Guardians will wear their new logos at the beginning of the 2022 season.

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