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Cleveland’s baseball team reportedly decides to drop Indians nickname

Progressive Field after the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Minnesota Twins.
Following protests for racial equality over the summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the Cleveland Indians announced they were reviewing their nickname.
(Jason Miller / Getty Images)

For more than a century of mostly futile seasons, Cleveland’s baseball team has been called the Indians.

Now, two years after dumping the cartoonish Indian logo that had decorated its caps, the team plans to dump the Indians name.

It was unclear Sunday night when the team might announce the decision, when it might take effect or what the new team nickname might be. The New York Times first reported the decision; the team did not confirm it.

The Indians’ decision comes five months after the NFL’s Washington Redskins dropped their nickname. That team has deferred a decision on a new nickname and has played this season as the Washington Football Team.

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The Indians and Redskins are two of the teams targeted by Native Americans who say such nicknames do not honor tribes but instead demean them. The Atlanta Braves, whose tomahawk chop was criticized by a St. Louis Cardinals pitcher of Native American heritage, have said they intend to retain their nickname.

The USC men’s basketball team has shut down team activities and postponed Sunday’s Pac-12 opener against Stanford because of a positive coronavirus test.

The issue has long been debated beyond professional sports. In 1997, the Los Angeles Unified School District stripped three of its high schools of their nicknames, dropping Warriors at University High, Braves at Birmingham High and Mohicans at Gardena High.

In 2018, the Indians said they would keep their name but would drop the Chief Wahoo logo. In July — amid a heated summer of national protest over racial injustice and police brutality, and after the Redskins said they would change their name — the Indians said they would review theirs.

In 1914, the Cleveland Naps — named after Hall of Fame player-manager Nap Lajoie — lost 102 games and posted a .333 winning percentage, still a franchise worst. Attendance fell from 541,000 to 186,000, Lajoie went to the Philadelphia Athletics, and Cleveland opted for a new nickname.

The Indians nickname is most commonly associated with outfielder Louis Sockalexis, a Native American who played for Cleveland from 1897 to 1899, when the team was known as the Spiders. However, on Jan. 17, 1915, the Cleveland Plain Dealer explained the team’s name change this way: “President Somers invited the Cleveland baseball writers to make the selection. The title of Indians was their choice, it having been one of the names applied to the old National League club of Cleveland many years ago.”


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