Well, here it is, the moment we have all been waiting for: the reveal of the Cleveland Indians’ new name and logo. I am going to evaluate this in two parts. First, I will discuss the brand by itself, then I will share my thoughts about the Indians’ name change in general.
If you have not read my previous article about MLB’s issue with team branding, it truly is a "must-read" before reading this article because it is important to understand what I feel are important in brands, and where teams, particularly the Indians, were lacking. I am going to write in this article as if the audience has read that article in its entirety.
The entire Cleveland Guardians brand is one giant 2-strike foul ball: it advances absolutely nothing and keeps everything exactly how it is, to the point where it does not even count as anything happening. Now, that statement can be spun both ways. On one hand, I can see an Indians fan content with the Guardians because it is so similar to the Indians that the band still feels familiar and belonging. This makes sense because the font is similar, the colors are the same, and the word "Guardians" still has the same last 5 letters as the Indians. I picture James Franco motioning "we are same-same but different."
On the other hand, I see a team who mostly kept the worst of what the most recent Indians brand had to offer. First, they still kept the most common color palate used in MLB, so there is no uniqueness to the eye. Second, they just BARELY changed the font of "Cleveland" so it still remains bland and forgettable. Thirdly, Guardians still is a plain, generic, and uninteresting name. By the way, I do know what statues the name is referring to. Credit where credit is due, I appreciate the outside-the-box thinking with the winged G logo. While it does not look great, it is at least a little interesting to look at.
This was an absolute waste of a rebrand because practically nothing changed. The brand is still as baseline bland and forgettable as it was before, but I think that was all intentional…
Months ago, I took an online survey put out by the Cleveland Indians asking what fans would like to see in a new brand. Questions included asking about reflecting the city, keeping the colors, and most strikingly: how much difference should it be from the Indians. If the organization created this new brand off of the survey, that means the survey results were very clear and very obvious: Fans wanted the Cleveland Indians. Now, the owner can make truckloads of money by re-selling the brand back to its fans.
The Guardians look like the Indians, the organization essentially re-created the Indians, fans wanted the Indians, because they are the Indians.
The Triggering Part
I have been vocal about this following opinion for months, so I feel no reason to hide it now. I do not think the Indians should have changed their name (and from the results of the new brand, it looks like most fans don’t either). I think the Owner felt pressured by Dan Snyder changing the Redskins name so he felt obligated to follow suit.
Over the past year-ish, a few notable Native American brands have been dropped between the Indians, Redskins, and Land-O-Lakes butter. I call this "fake sympathy" because it gives the brands the opportunity to put out a message that they care about Native Americans, while also not helping them in any real way possible. It is a selfish cry for attention and money at the expense of further burying Native Americans from the mind of American consciousness. It is a special kind of hypocritical.
If the Indians wanted to show they cared, they would further build schools on Native American reservations, offer more college scholarships, help rebuild damaged infrastructure on reservations, show short 5 minute documentaries of different tribes and their history on the big screen during the pregame, and help open up a Native American history museum so kids and families can go there to learn.
All of this helps Native Americans today and in the future. Changing a baseball team name does absolutely zero, neither does taking a logo off a package of butter. If anything, it makes it even easier for the public to ignore and forget.
Ask yourself this: if the organization felt the name “Indians" was so offensive that it needed to be changed, why did the team still wear the name on their home uniforms all year? Because it"s too offensive for you to feel good about, but not too offensive to spend your money on.
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Main image credit Embed from Getty Images