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After 106 Years, Cleveland's Baseball Team Will Have A New Name

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Cleveland's Major League Baseball team has a new name. The old offensive team name endured for more than a century, but an announcement on the change came today. Glenn Forbes from Ideastream Public Media in Cleveland reports on the newly dubbed Guardians.

GLENN FORBES, BYLINE: For years, Native Americans and others have found the name Indians to be offensive and have pushed for a change. Many didn't want the word tribe or any other Native American reference. Enter the Guardians, the name introduced today in a PR video narrated by Tom Hanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOM HANKS: This is the city we love, and the game we believe in. And together, we are all the Cleveland Guardians.

FORBES: While the team will keep the Indians name through the end of this season, there's now clarity on what they will become in 2022. Terry Kavouras has been an Indians fan since the 1960s. He views this as an end of an era.

TERRY KAVOURAS: It's going to take a while for this to kind of, you know, settle into my bones as it were. And I don't want - I wouldn't want to be, like, the first kid on the block with the, you know, new team name because, you know, it does bug me, all right? It does bother me a little bit that it's changing.

FORBES: A number of fans here say team owner Paul Dolan made the change for public relations and financial reasons. Longtime Cleveland sports columnist Terry Pluto likens it to the Washington football team, which changed its name under pressure from sponsor Federal Express just hours before Cleveland's decision to do so last summer.

TERRY PLUTO: The Indians do not want their top sponsors - Progressive and Sherwin-Williams and the rest - to get a lot of pressure from special interest groups and others to then have them pressure the Indians. They just don't want to get into all that.

FORBES: Fans from famous ballpark drummer John Adams to the millennials filling the ballpark Corner Bar speak about changing the name that's not inclusive. Here's the team's legendary manager, Terry Francona.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TERRY FRANCONA: We set out to find answers that maybe we didn't have. And through that, we came to the realization that we need to make a change. What we're really proud of is the first name of our team, which is Cleveland.

FORBES: John Adams has been literally banging the drum in the bleachers for the team at games since the 1970s. While he isn't in favor of changing the name, he says it won't affect how he feels about the team.

JOHN ADAMS: I'm a fan of the team. I'm a fan of the game. And most of all, you know, I'm a fan of Cleveland.

FORBES: For 33-year-old Alyssa Velotta, this is a big day. She doubted management's sincerity when it announced it would explore change, but she likes the results.

ALYSSA VELOTTA: The Guardians on the Hope Memorial Bridge - I think that they are beautiful. They are uniquely Cleveland. I think they tell a huge story.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOM HAMILTON: ...And today's first pitch, it's in there - a called strike. And we're underway at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

FORBES: That familiar opening call from popular radio play-by-play man Tom Hamilton explains why they'll be called the Guardians. The Hope Memorial Bridge, completed in 1932, connects Lorain and Carnegie Avenues, stopping just short of the ballpark. Dubbed the Guardians of Traffic, two massive stone sculptures stand atop pylons on each side of the bridge. While Clevelanders will likely be divided over the new name and logo, the intersection of sports, race and public opinion continues, and so do the Cleveland Guardians.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BLACK KEYS SONG, "LITTLE BLACK SUBMARINES")

FORBES: For NPR News, I'm Glenn Forbes in Cleveland.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE SHINS SONG, "THE FEAR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.