Opinion: Guardians Name Change is Step in Right Direction Worth Celebrating, But Work Remains

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It is so liberating to me that, at long last, Cleveland’s baseball team has changed its name. I am already a big fan of the Cleveland Guardians.

But there is still work to do.

As a born and raised Clevelander and indigenous person, enrolled in the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in Michigan, I’ve been waiting for this day for a very, very long time. I’ve been waiting for a hometown team I can root for without feeling like I’m betraying centuries of Native ancestry. I’ve been waiting for a team whose games I can feel comfortable taking my kids to someday without seeing dehumanizing representations of indigenous people. I’ve been waiting for a team that doesn’t pit me against strangers to defend the value of my heritage. I’ve been waiting for a team that shows the world that Cleveland, as the least it can do, will no longer tolerate a blatantly racist team name and has chosen a starting point to improve its relationship with its Native people.

Based on the mixed reception the team’s new name has garnered, it is clear just how necessary this move is for Cleveland. One such petulant snowflake expressed to me in a social media post, “It’s just a name. Why can’t you get over it?” My point has been that anyone who truly believes that should be the least incensed by the change because it’s just a name, right?

This backlash spotlights the work that lies ahead of us. While news of the name change is spectacular, it is but a step — albeit a big one — in the right direction.

Some of these next steps need to be owned by the Guardians. They have built and fostered a brand that supports decades of prejudice that so many in Northeast Ohio unapologetically espouse.

Last year, I had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the team. I am so grateful they took the time to listen sincerely to my story and my point of view. I hope to see our new team take a role in not just supporting indigenous groups in our community but in making attempts to re-educate its fans about Native people.

The team itself, however, is not the only institution who is culpable here. There are countless others. They and individual Northeast Ohioans need to take this opportunity to learn more about the city of Cleveland’s first people and the indigenous people who call it home today.

Let’s all celebrate together this great news and embrace our Cleveland Guardians. I cannot wait to attend a game and don the new merch. I want to express a big thank you to the team and the many people, deceased or alive, Native or ally, who helped make this happen. This Clevelander is so grateful and proud of her hometown today.

However, make no mistake: this is just a first step to making things right with the indigenous people of Cleveland.

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