In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) there are Guardians of the Galaxy battling aliens near and far.
In Low Earth Orbit (LEO) the Guardians of Space Force protect the interests of America from wayward actors.
Starting in 2022, the city of Cleveland will have Guardians of their own patrolling the diamonds of Major League Baseball.
Say hello to the Cleveland Guardians, and goodbye to the Cleveland Indians.
In making the announcement of the new name team, owner and chairman Paul Dolan noted in a prepared statement that, “We are excited to usher in the next era of the deep history of baseball in Cleveland. Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity. Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders.”
Apparently a lot of people are believers in the resiliency and pride brought about by the word guardians.
In December 2020 former United States vice-president Mike Pence, took great pride at the direction of the former president in announcing that members of the United States Space Force would forever be known as Guardians.
With the Coast Guard being called “Coasties” despite actually having the word guard in their name, it makes sense that space forceers would be called Guardians? Asking for a friend.
Either way, the brain trust in Cleveland said, “hold my Pierogi,” and named an entire baseball team after either space soldiers, or Marvel characters. Creating not the most original idea under the sun in the process.
Somewhere I think old Harry Doyle of Major League fame would call the new name, “Just a bit outside.”
The timing of the announcement on the day that the world was distracted by the opening ceremonies of the Pandemic games, I mean Summer Olympic games, also seems a bit like trying to bury the lead when the world of sport was looking the other direction.
While I am certainly not trying to tell the fine people of Cleveland what to call their baseball team, their selection seems rather flat and uninspired based on the aforementioned list of way more famous Guardians.
Cleveland had used Indians as their nickname since 1915. In 2020 the team announced that a new name was coming in response to growing complaints from Native American groups and others who felt that the name and iconography was disrespectful.
Ahead of undergoing a name change, Cleveland stopped wearing the Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps in 2019 as phase one of their rebranding effort.
While the Indians will be retired at the end of the 2021 MLB season, diehard Clevelanders and Chief Wahoo fans can take solace in the fact that the Indians will forever live on the silver screen thanks to their inclusion in the movies of the Major League franchise.
In the none theatrical world, I can support and respect the need for Cleveland to adjust their branding to be less controversial, however, their ultimate choice of new nickname seems a little lazy.
It is almost like they looked at the word Indians and thought, “you know if we drop the letters “in” we just need to find some new letters and we can keep the “dians” that our fans have grown to love over the years.
I am guessing the keep the “dians” approach for a new nickname included evaluating such words as Comedians, Meridians, Arcadians, Euclidians, Custodians, and Medians.
With all of the attention being paid to the sabermetrics and mathematical elements of baseball these days, Cleveland truly missed an opportunity by not naming the team the Euclidians after Ancient Greek mathematician, Euclid, the inventor of axiomatic geometry.
After all, if launch angle is not a product of geometric principles I don’t know what is.
A quick internet search of “Cleveland Guardians” reveals that a men’s roller hockey team already used that name proving that the search for a new name may have been even lazier then first thought. There are even similarities between the roller hockey logo and the logo for the MLB squad.
As weak as the new nickname seems, at least one can take solace in the fact that Cleveland did not follow the soccer/futbol route and call themselves the Cleveland City Baseball Club.
The move by Cleveland follows a move made by the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins to change with the times and remove offensive nicknames and logos. Washington is expected to announce their new name sometime in 2022.
Cleveland was not the only MLB team that used Native American symbolism as part of their brand but are the only one making a change. The Atlanta Braves announced last year that they had no intention of changing their team’s name, but would look into the possibility of doing away with the “Tomahawk Chop.”
In the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs are also facing increased pressure to change their name.
Additionally, Jeep has been asked by the Cherokee Nation to find another name for their bestselling SUV.
In a February 25, 2021 article in the New York Times, Chuck Hoskin Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, said, “The use of Cherokee names and imagery for peddling products doesn’t deepen the country’s understanding of what it means to be Cherokee, and I think it diminishes it somewhat.”
The response from the parent company of Jeep was noncommittal regarding whether a name change would be forthcoming.
It is certainly a tricky issue for both sports franchises and corporations to navigate when it comes to protecting their long-term identity while also being mindful of the fact that acceptable societal norms have shifted.
As noted many times before, I grew up as a Washington Redskins fan and never thought that I was supporting a team named after a racial slur.
To me, they were just a football team with cool colors, a catchy post touchdown song and a neat logo. But for some, that name and logo, even though it was used by some Native American communities, was offensive to others.
To be fair, someone will always be offended no matter what something is called. But when the majority of people find something offense it is time to take a closer look at whether a change needs to be made.
Cleveland made their change and while they likely launched a thousand memes by naming themselves Guardians, at least they are moving forward with a new identity.
The Washington football faithful still have to wait another year to see what rebranding effort is coming straight outta Landover, MD.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to listen to some of Harry Doyle’s greatest fictional calls.
Copyright 2021 R. Anderson