The "Indians" sign that has overlooked Cleveland's Progressive Field since it opened in 1994 is coming down on Tuesday, as the city's Major League Baseball team changes its name and branding to the Guardians. However, the team's rebranding hit a snag last week when a roller derby team accused them of stealing their name.
The removal of the script "Indians" sign that sits above the scoreboard could take several days, according to Cleveland.com. It is the first step in the team's transition into its new brand.
The team decided toin December 2020, since the name they used for 100 years is considered insensitive to indigenous peoples.
In July, the team officially announced it would be called the Guardians, ending months of internal discussions triggered by a national reckoning among institutions and teams to permanently drop logos and names considered racist.
The change will be effective at the end of the 2021 season. The players' uniforms and the team's social media still use the Indians branding, but with the World Series wrapping up this month, the team is expected to begin its transition to the Guardians soon.
However, last week a Cleveland-based roller derby team – also named the Cleveland Guardians – sued the MLB franchise in federal court, CBS Sports reports. The derby team hopes to stop the team from using the name.
"Major League Baseball would never let someone name their lacrosse team the 'Chicago Cubs' if the team was in Chicago, or their soccer team the 'New York Yankees' if that team was in New York – nor should they," lead attorney Christopher Pardo said in a statement on behalf of the derby team.
"The same laws that protect Major League Baseball from the brand confusion that would occur in those examples also operate in reverse to prevent what the Indians are trying to do here," the statement reads. "By taking the name 'Cleveland Guardians' overnight, the Indians knowingly and willfully eviscerated the rights of the original owner of that name – the real Cleveland Guardians."
The lawsuit alleges the MLB team knew the Guardians roller derby team already had the same name and that its lawyers made secret trademark filings on the small island of Mauritius "in an effort to hide its intent to take the Guardians' name, and then reached out to tell the roller derby team of its plans," CBS Sports reports.
CBS News has reached out to the MLB team for more information on its impending rebrand.
The Indians are not the only team to face scrutiny over their name and branding. The Atlanta Braves has been criticized for its name – first used by the team in 1912 as a term for Native American warrior – and The hand motion, a chopping gesture that is a Braves' gameday tradition, is considered offensive to many Native Americans.
Last week, while MLB commissioner Bob Manfred defended them, National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp issued a statement in opposition to the continued use of the chop and team name.
The Braves are currently in the World Series against the Houston Astros, and former President Donald Trump and wife Melania recently attended a game, where they were seen doing the tomahawk chop.
An NFL team, the Washington Redskins, also received widespread criticism for its name – an offensive slur toward Native Americans – andto the Washington Football Team in 2020.
for more features.