MLB’s Cleveland Franchise Owners Pondering A Brand Name Change

CEOs are reacting.

Sports owners may or may not know Bob Dylan’s 1965 lyric of “you don’t need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind blows”. They know which way the wind is blowing. The owner of the National Football League’s Washington franchise Dan Snyder is reviewing whether he should change the team’s name and now the ownership of Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians is doing the same thing. Corporate America has watched the protests in the streets and is reacting by dropping names and logos on products that have been deemed offensive. The times as Dylan sang in 1964, they are a changin. The Cleveland ownership thoughts on the team logo began to evolve years ago. But this is the first time that ownership is evaluating the brand name although there have been criticisms over the years about the offensiveness of the team name and the team logo. Ownership is now concerned.

Chief Wahoo, the longtime Cleveland Indians logo went into semi-retirement after the 2018 season. But the logo was being used less and less over a nine-year period.  Since 2009, baseball consumers in Arizona have not seen the logo during spring training out of respect to the state’s Native American population. The TOPPS trading card company announced in July 2018 that it was dropping both Chief Wahoo and the Atlanta Braves screaming Indian or savage logos from new cards the company was printing including reissues of old baseball cards. Chief Wahoo merchandise remained available in Cleveland as team ownership did not give up various Chief Wahoo trademarks. The present Cleveland franchise throughout its history has had numerous names including the Lake Shores, Bluebirds, Bronchos and Naps. Nineteenth century Cleveland teams were called Forest City, Blues, Babes and Spiders. The team was named the Indians in 1915. Chief Wahoo was created as a promotional tool in 1947.

FILE – In this Sept. 3, 1973, file photo, home plate umpire John Flaherty checks Cleveland Indians pitcher Gaylord Perry’s cap for an illegal substance, at the request of Milwaukee Brewers manager Del Crandall, during the first baseball game of a doubleheader in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/File)