Updated: 11:13 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020
The Cleveland Indians will change the baseball team's name, according to a Sunday evening report from the New York Times
The Wall Street Journal, ESPN and the Washington Post quickly followed with additional confirmation, all from anonymous sources.
Curtis Danburg, senior director of communications for the Indians, told ideastream he had no comment when reached Sunday evening after the initial Times report was published.
The Times wrote that the team could announce its plans as soon as this week, based on conversations with three people who spoke to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
The reports come not long after the NFL team in Washington, D.C., stopped using a nickname long considered a racial slur.
In July, the Cleveland Indians released a statement saying that in light of recent social unrest, the team planned to engage the community and stakeholders to determine the best path forward for a name change. In 2018, the Indians began the now completed phase-out of mascot Chief Wahoo after decades of concerns it was a racist caricature.
Some Native Americans have long felt the team’s name should change as well, regularly protesting outside the stadium downtown, including at the 2020 MLB season opener in Cleveland.
“For us, it’s great news,” said Sundance, executive director of Cleveland American Indian Movement and member of the Muskogee tribe. “It comes with reservations, of course.”
Northeast Ohio Native American activists and leaders in the region have been unsuccessfully calling for a name change for decades, Sundance said, so there is hesitation among community members that the Indians organization will follow through with a name change.
“Our fear is that, once again, we are going to be duped,” he said.
To his knowledge, no Native groups in Northeast Ohio have been consulted by the team about the potential name change at this time, Sundance said.
“Our concern is that we’re being taken advantage of, as we have been in the past, and that they are going to continue to take advantage of us in the future,” he said. “The narrative that they created, at the turn of the last century, that they are somehow honoring native people… [is] a narrative which is patently false. We are afraid that this is the beginning of a new narrative that we are going to have to defend against in the future.”
The Times reported the team will continue to use the Indians name and uniforms during the 2021 season, and could begin the switch to a new name as early as 2022, a timeline Sundance questioned Sunday night.
“There’s nothing preventing them from changing now. The season hasn’t started,” he said.
Sundance told ideastream he does not have a preference for a new team name – just that it has nothing “remotely to do with indigenous people,” he said.
In the late 1800s, Cleveland’s professional baseball team was known as the Spiders, playing in the defunct American Association and later the National League. Spiders outfielder Louis Sockalexis, a member of the Penobscot tribe who is considered the first Native American to play professional baseball, has long been cited as the inspiration for the current team name, though the story is disputed.
Cleveland's baseball team has been known as the Indians for 105 years.