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Fans won’t go easily with name change

The loyalty of Cleveland Indians fans soon could be tested again, this time as they face the possibility of not only the removal of their beloved Chief Wahoo mascot, but also now the team nickname.

Via social media, the team on July 3 announced it was considering changing the 105-year-old Indians name.

The Indians organization says it is considering the move in an effort to keep with the team’s commitment to have “a positive impact on our community” and its responsibility “to advance social justice and equality.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it was the same argument it made a couple years ago for wiping out Chief Wahoo fromProgressive Field. For years, the team had been slowly transitioning away from Wahoo, the cartoonish Indian mascot, replacing it with the standard block C.

At the time, the organization promised that fans still could purchase Wahoo-trademarked items. Maybe so, but anyone looking for the paraphernalia will be hard-pressed to find it in the ballpark’s team shop.

I think everyone ultimately understands the reasoning behind that move. Indeed, we all must be more sensitive to the culture and heritage of others. Our nation was built on equality. Wahoo was disrespectful to Native Americans who often protested outside the Cleveland ballpark as fans shuffled by.

I suspect team ownership was thinking (hoping) fans either will have a short memory — or understand and accept that Wahoo’s appearance was offensive.

From where I sit — which most often is in the upper deck right behind home plate — I think fans really are beginning to move past the loss of Wahoo, albeit reluctantly. What other choice do they have, after all?

But, frankly, I don’t think a transition away from the Indians’ nickname will come as easily. Outcry already is loud among some fans — including one in particular that I live with.

Yes, my husband already has been vocal about his love for the Indians name. He didn’t shy away from sharing his displeasure with a customer service rep from the Indians organization who emailed recently to see if we’d be coming back again next year. Considering the dozen seats we already purchased for this season are going unused, I’m pretty sure we’ll be trading them in for new 2021 seats (maybe even in the lower deck!).

Yes, I admit it’s heartbreaking to consider rooting for the Tribe when it’s no longer, well, a tribe.

You might ask, what’s the big deal? It’s just a name!

But just take a moment to consider the Jumbotron without the flashing words “IT’S TRIBE TIME!”

Likewise, how could anyone root for the Pittsburgh Pirates without the familiar chant of “Let’s Go Bucs!”

Wouldn’t fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins be crushed if that team were no longer penguins? I remember how disappointed I was when the Penguins made a simple switch to a new Penguin logo in the early 1990s.

And, remember when Cleveland went years without an NFL franchise after team owner Art Modell moved it to Baltimore? Fans were furious, no doubt. But what placated them the most? It was the promise the team’s orange and brown colors would stay, but more importantly, so would the name — hence the “Ravens” nickname was born in Baltimore.

So, how do I personally feel about a potential name change? Oh, I’d hate it. But I’d adjust.

As a transplanted Ohioan who moved here from my native western Pennsylvania about 28 years ago, I don’t really have a right to complain. I didn’t grow up with the Tribe, after all.

But there are a LOT of stubborn fans — believe me, I know, I live with one — who have rooted for the tribe for decades longer than I have.

And I’m not so sure they’re going to come along so easily.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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