Cleveland faces new calls to change Indians name

Cleveland — For years, the pressure has been increasing on baseball and the Cleveland Indians to change the name of the franchise. In recent years, the team has changed its logo in many places, removing “Chief Wahoo” from team merchandise. As Washington’s NLF team announced it is changing its name, and other sports teams have also considered changes, there are renewed calls for change with Cleveland’s baseball team.

Wednesday, the Cleveland Indigenous Coalition issued a news release announcing that more than 50 organizations support having Cleveland’s city council and sponsors, including Progressive Insurance, engage actively with the team on making changes to the team name.

The news release includes a statement from Chris Begay, Diné, and Chair of the Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance. “As we have called on the City of Cleveland to change the name of the baseball team, we have been strengthened by an outpouring of support from national and local organizations, businesses, and individuals who also feel the same,” the statement said. “In an effort to amplify voices of our community, we seek to restore dignity and respect to all Indigenous people through this partnership with the Cleveland Indigenous Coalition and all of our supporters to change the name.”

The news release says the organizations that support engaging the team on changing its name include the YWCA of Greater Cleveland, the ACLU of Ohio, NAACP Cleveland Chapter, Black Lives Matter Cleveland, the Social Justice Institute and the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at Case Western Reserve University, Greater Cleveland Board of Rabbis, the Young Latino Network, the InterReligious Task Force, Mitchell's Ice Cream,

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, five Cleveland Community Development Corporations and Cleveland Public Theatre.

A statement in the release from Cleveland Public Theatre Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan says, "Cleveland Public Theatre stands in solidarity with our Indigenous neighbors, coworkers, classmates, and community members. We acknowledge the harm Cleveland and our

baseball team name have done to Indigenous people, especially with the use of the Chief Wahoo logo. We hope that in this time of awakening and of activism, this symbol of oppression will be fully ended by the team and that it will be banned from stadiums."

The team has stated recently that change is possible, and that the team will work with indigenous leaders. For last Friday’s home opener, the team opted to wear away jerseys, which say “Cleveland” on the front, instead of the home jersey, which say “Indians” on the front. However, the team has since resumed wearing the “Indians” jersey.

Before the home opener, team owner Paul Dolan told the Associated Press, “Our players care about the organization and feel strongly about social justice and racial equality. I support their interest in using their platform to unite our city and our nation through their actions. As I explained to our players, I am invested in engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to help determine the best path forward with regard to our team name. In the coming weeks, we will engage Native American leaders to better understand their perspectives, meet with local civic leaders, and continue to listen to the perceptions of our players, fans, partners and employees. We feel a real sense of urgency to discuss these perspectives with key stakeholders while also taking the time needed to ensure those conversations are inclusive and meaningful.”

Natioanl groups have also been involved. Today’s news release includes a statement from Crystal Echo Hawk, founder and CEO of the national Native-led organization IllumiNative. The statement said, “We are encouraged by the actions taken by the Cleveland organization to conduct a review of their name and decide how to proceed. However, it’s imperative this review, and the team itself, meets, listens, and seeks guidance from Native leaders of the Cleveland community who have been fighting for this name change, and from Native subject matter experts on the impact of Native mascots. Any actions taken without their involvement will only continue to silence Native voices. The time is now for the Cleveland team to stand on the right side of history and ensure a true process of reconciliation with Native peoples.”

The Cleveland Indigenous Coalition says it consists of the American Indian Movement of Ohio, The Committee of 500 Years of Dignity & Resistance, the

Lake Erie Native American Council and The Lake Erie Professional Chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

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