Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona said Sunday that he is in favor of the team changing its name.
“I think it’s time to move forward,” Francona said during a Zoom call on Sunday, two days after the team issued a statement saying that the organization is “committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”
Francona, 61, admitted that the topic of the team’s name and the Chief Wahoo logo has been on his mind for quite some time, however he has sidestepped it in previous years.
“I’ve been thinking about it and been thinking about it before we put out that statement,” Francona said. “I know in the past, when I’ve been asked about, whether it’s our name or the Chief Wahoo, I think I would usually answer and say, ‘I know that we’re never trying to be disrespectful.’
“And I still feel that way. But I don’t think that’s a good enough answer today. I think it’s time to move forward. It’s a very difficult subject. It’s also delicate.”
The Indians were a charter member of the American League in 1901 and originally named the Blues, according to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History from Case Western Reserve University in the city. The team briefly was called the Broncos, and between 1903-11, was called the Naps in honor of player-manager Nap Lajoie.
For the next two years, while the team officially was known as the Molly McGuires, locals still referred to the team as the Naps. When Lajoie was traded after the 1914 season, the team was renamed the Indians in 1915 on the suggestion of sportswriters.
Both the Indians and the NFL’s Washington Redskins long have faced criticism for maintaining their Native American-themed nicknames.
After the 2018 season, the Indians stopped wearing the smiling, red-faced Chief Wahoo emblem on their hats and jerseys, though they still sell products with that image.
Other sports teams with Native American nicknames have toned down the related imageries over the years.
The Kansas City Chiefs retired their horse mascot ridden by a man in a feathered headdress, and the Atlanta Braves retired mascot Chief Noc-A-Homa in the 1980s.
Universities including Stanford, Arkansas State, William & Mary and Louisiana-Monroe have dropped the Indians nickname.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)