Indian owner says name won’t change in 2021

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CLEVELAND (AP) – The Cleveland Indians are changing their names – they just don’t know what or when.

Expressing that “it’s about time,” owner Paul Dolan said that after months of internal discussions and meetings with groups, including Native Americans who have sought to end the use of a nickname that many deem racist, the American League franchise is abandoning its name. has been known since 1915.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press Monday, Dolan said, “The name is no longer acceptable in our world. “

Dolan said the team will continue to call themselves Indians until a new name is chosen. This “multi-step” process is in its early stages and the team will play – and be branded – like Indians at least until next season.

“We’ll be the Indians in 2021, and then after that it’s a tough and complex process to identify a new name and do whatever you do to activate that name,” Dolan said. “We’re going to be working at as fast a pace as possible while doing it right.

“But we’re not going to do something just to do it. We will take the time we need to get it right.

Dolan said the team will not adopt a working name before choosing their new one.

“We don’t want to be the Cleveland baseball team or some other acting name,” he said. “We will continue to be Indians until we identify the next name which will hopefully take us through centuries.”

Cleveland’s move follows a similar move earlier this year by the NFL Washington football team, formerly known as the Redskins.

“It was a learning process for me and I think when impartial and open-minded people really look at it, think about it and maybe even spend time studying it, I like to think that they would come to the same conclusion: it’s a name that has had its time, but now is not the time, and certainly in the future, the name is no longer acceptable in our world, ”Dolan said.

As Cleveland contemplates new names, Dolan said Tribe, the team’s popular nickname for decades, has been left out.

“We’re not going to be half a step away from the Indians,” Dolan said, acknowledging Tribe was an early choice. “The new name, and I don’t know what it is, will not be a name that has Native American themes or connotations. “

The Indian name change is the latest by an organization responding to a national movement, which has gained momentum following numerous civil rights protests last summer, to have names and symbols removed damaging.

Across the south, Civil War monuments have been demolished and, in some cases, names have been removed from buildings.

Dolan said his “wake-up call or epiphany” came after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died being arrested by white Minneapolis police officers this summer.

Cleveland’s announcement was praised by Washington NFL coach Ron Rivera, who said his perspective on the issue changed after reading “The Real All-Americans,” a team novel. native american football.

Rivera said he received angry letters from Washington fans who were unhappy with the name change.

“But I also got notes from Native Americans thanking me for doing this and for respecting our wishes,” Rivera said. “The only thing I hope is that we don’t forget them. We do not ignore them. We begin to pay attention to their plight and do the right thing. These are Americans who deserve our respect. “

Dolan predicts that there will be an equally strong backlash from Indian fans who disagree with the team’s decision.

“I consider myself to be a fifth generation Clevelander,” he said. “It’s in our blood and baseball and Indians are synonymous, and it depends on intent versus impact. No one wanted anything negative about our attachment to the Indian name, but the impact was hard.

Washington dropped its name in July after giving in to pressure from corporate sponsors.

It wasn’t until hours later that Dolan announced an in-depth review of the team’s name. He has promised to listen and learn, and that’s what has happened in recent months in discussions with fans, business leaders, gamers, social activists and culturally focused researchers. and Native American issues.

Dolan called these conversations “both informative and stimulating.”

He added that there was a delicate balance between going forward and looking back.

“We will honor our past,” he said. “We are not moving away from our past. We will be the Cleveland Indians from 1915 until any year we finally change. We will always celebrate this. I don’t think we should ignore it.

“But from the day we make the change, the new story that we are building together as a community with our team will be under the banner of a different name. ”

Cleveland’s name change follows the removal of the controversial Chief Wahoo logo from its caps and jerseys in 2019.

The team never stopped selling merchandise featuring the smiling, cartoonish character, but Dolan said all proceeds from future sales of Wahoo items would go to Native American organizations or causes supporting Native Americans.

Dolan’s family bought off the Indians in 2000, and even then he knew Chief Wahoo “was a problem.” It was only after the turmoil this summer and learning about Native American issues that he recognized Indians in the same light.

“There is certainly pain in that. It is the end of an era or the beginning of an era. But with that comes the recognition and maybe even the excitement that we keep doing something better. It will be better for the community. It will be better for our team. And it will hopefully be something that unites everyone. It’s not something that we have to feel any reluctance to express, ”he said.

“It’s going to take a while for everyone to kiss, but I think when they do, we’ll all be better off.”

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AP Sports editor Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

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