The name change comes after the team removed the Chief Wahoo logo from game jerseys and caps two years ago

By Nicholas Rice
December 14, 2020 09:11 AM
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The Cleveland Indians will be making a big change.

After 105 years, the Ohio-based baseball team is changing its name, which has been criticized for being racist, the team confirmed in a statement provided to PEOPLE.

"In our statement in June 2020, we acknowledged the importance of taking a leadership role in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts across the community and enhancing our support for underserved and under-represented groups," the statement said. "As part of that commitment, we heard from individuals and groups who shared a variety of views and opinions on the issue. We are deeply grateful for the interest and engagement from Native American communities, civic leaders, leading researchers, fans, corporate partners, players, and internal teammates devoted to these formal and informal conversations."

The statement said, "After reflecting upon those discussions, we believe our organization is at its best when we can unify our community and bring people together – and we believe a new name will allow us to do this more fully."

Multiple outlets, including The New York Times, reported the decision earlier on Monday, citing sources familiar with the situation.

The Cleveland Indians
| Credit: Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The team said the change will be a multi-phase process, and that "future decisions, including new name identification and brand development, are complex and will take time. While we work to identify a new and enduring franchise name, we will continue using the Indians name."

In addition, "through Cleveland Indians Charities and partnerships with local civic organizations and institutions, we will enhance our continuing support of underserved groups and work to create a stronger, more equitable community."

Before the official announcement, two sources told the Times that the team will later decide on a new name with the help of the public and baseball fans.

A different source told the Times that the Cleveland team plans to keep the name and uniforms for the upcoming 2021 season, but will work to change them out as early as 2022.

Credit: Ron Schwane/Getty Images

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The name change comes after the Cleveland team removed the Chief Wahoo logo from game jerseys and caps two years ago. The league said that the logo, which features a smiling Native American, is not appropriate for field use.

"Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement at the time. "Over the past year, we encouraged dialogue with the Indians organization about the club's use of the Chief Wahoo logo. During our constructive conversations, [Indians owner] Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a long-standing attachment to the logo and its place in the history of the team.

"Nonetheless, the club ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball, and I appreciate Mr. Dolan's acknowledgment that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course," Manfred added.

Earlier this year, the Cleveland baseball team announced that they would look into the changing of the name, hours after the NFL's Washington Football Team announced a similar move in July. Similar to the Washington team, Cleveland has faced pressure for years to change its name.

"We are committed to making a positive impact in our community and embrace our responsibility to advance social justice and equality," a statement from the MLB team said on Twitter at the time. "Our organization fully recognizes our team name is among the most visible ways in which we connect with the community."

The statement continued, "We have had ongoing discussions organizationally on these issues. The recent social unrest in our community and our country has only underscored the need for us to keep improving as an organization on issues of social justice. With that in mind, we are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name."

"While the focus of the baseball world shifts to the excitement of an unprecedented 2020 season, we recognize our unique place in the community and are committed to listening, learning, and acting in the manner that can best unite and inspire our city and all those who support our team," the Cleveland team concluded in the statement.