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Cleveland to meet with Native American leaders on team name

Cleveland IndiansThe Cleveland Indians ownership will meet with Native American leaders and other community groups to gauge their feelings on the team’s name and branding, as the MLB franchise continues to navigate a #BLM world.

Here’s the statement from Indians Owner Paul Dolan regarding the team name:

“As we approach Opening Day, I wanted to provide an update regarding our team name and our plan moving forward. In our July 3rd statement, we shared a commitment to listening and learning from our community, and we appreciate the passionate response over the past several weeks.

Earlier this week, I had a candid and productive meeting with Terry and our players, where they expressed their desire to help our organization in this process. 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.

We will continue to share periodic updates as we make progress. In the meantime, we are excited for our team to return to the field to continue our pursuit of a World Series Championship.”

We’ve already seen some MLB take action in this new era of social justice: Last month the Minnesota Twins took down a statue of former team owner Calvin Griffith at Target Field, while the University of Cincinnati removed Marge Schott’s name from the school’s ballpark. (Our story here.) Prior efforts included the renaming of Yawkey Way back to its original name, Jersey Street, after the Boston Red Sox petitioned to change it as a way to distance the team from former owner Tom Yawkey’s racist past.

The Indians had previously struggled with a problematic part of its team branding: Chief Wahoo. It took until 2018 for the team to downplay Chief Wahoo on team uniforms, branding and marketing. However, the idea of dropping the logo completely had previously been met with some reluctance from Indians chairman and chief executive Paul Dolan, even as Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred increased pressure on the team to get rid of Chief Wahoo. But while the Dolans still own the Cleveland team, these are different times and a pro sports team must operate in different circumstances than just a few years ago.

Change is happening fast on the branding front when it comes to offensive nicknames. Yesterday the Washington Football Team temporary name was announced as a replacement for the NFL’s Redskins, as the team and the league work on a replacement branding scheme.

RELATED STORIES: Cleveland to reexamine Indians name, branding; Rethinking ballpark branding in #BLM times; Examining tangled legacies at sports facilities in a #BLM world

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