Six months after announcing they would be dropping their name for something new, the Cleveland Indians have provided their first update on the process.
With the launch of a microsite dedicated to the transition, the team has shared details on what they’re looking for in a new name, who they’ve consulted with, and how many names they’ve considered thus far.
“Over the course of several months, we conducted meaningful conversations with a variety of stakeholders, including Native American groups, fans, civic leaders, leading researchers focused on Native American culture and issues, internal teammates, players, and corporate partners,” read a message posted to site. “Ultimately, we found our organization is at its best when we can unify our community and bring people together around our shared interest in our home team – and we believe a new name will allow us to do this more fully.”
The Indians first adopted their present name back in 1915, a common theory these days suggests the team named themselves the “Indians” to commemorate the memory of a former Native American player, Louis Sockalexis, who played for the Cleveland Spiders from 1897 until 1899. Despite being known as the Spiders, the team was almost immediately referred to as “Cleveland’s Indians” or simply “Cleveland Indians” (alongside the actual name “Spiders”) in reports about the team in newspapers throughout the United States.
The Spiders folded in epic fashion following the 1899 season and a new Cleveland team joined the American League in 1901. Even though Sockalexis never played with the new team, the “Indians” name continued to be attached to the team in articles, as were the official team names of Cleveland Blues and Cleveland Naps well into the 1910s.
Sockalexis died in December of 1913, a year shy of the Naps adopting the “Indians” name officially, which they announced on January 16th, 1915, following a meeting between team officials and local sports reporters. The new name was said to be “in recognition of the fighting spirit of the team”. There was no mention of Sockalexis in any article regarding the name change at the time or in most of the accounts in the years to follow. Beginning in the 1970s, Native American leaders began voicing their opposition to the name and “Chief Wahoo” logo with several protests held outside the stadium in the decades to follow. The logo was officially dropped from their uniforms after 2018 and the name change announcement came two years later.
“While Indians will always be a part of our history, the most important part of our team name is Cleveland,” continued the website. “We’re listening to fans, community leaders, local influencers, our staff and front office teammates to understand what’s important to them and what they’re looking for in a new name.”
Three themes were identified by the club as what their new name should support and represent, it should “connect to the city of Cleveland”, should preserve their “rich baseball history”, and it should “unite the community”.
“From these key themes, we’re working to develop name options. We’ve hosted several brainstorm sessions to complile an extensive list of potential names. We’re putting all names through a vetting process to determine which ones uphold those themes the best and to narrow down our selection.”
At the moment the team claims they’ve conducted 140 hours of these interviews and surveyed over 40,000 fans to compile an initial list of (are you ready?) 1,198 different names.
Fortunately that list has since been narrowed down over the course of fourteen rounds, unfortunately they haven’t shared how narrow that list now is nor have they shared any of the names that are up for consideration.
“Once we narrow the list of names, we will begin to draft creative options for logos, word marks, and other brand elements,” the team shared. “During this phase, we will also work with Major League Baseball to ensure the legal viability of the name. The names go through a strict vetting process to make sure they’re legally sound for trademark protection … We want to make sure every element will support our new name, has a story to tell and aligns with the key themes we identified from our research.”
If you consider social media to be a reliable method of measurement (and hey, it worked for the Seattle Kraken), the most popular team name options of the moment are the Spiders, Municipals, and Guardians. One thing we do know, based on what the club has said previously, is that the name will not have any Native American themes or connotations, so put to rest any ideas of a name like the Warriors or the use of a feather or an arrowhead in whatever the new logo will end up being.
There’s no timeline yet for when we can expect a new name to be announced, though the launch of their website is a pretty good sign that things may be getting ready to happen.