Similar to the NFL team in Washington, D.C., the MLB team in Cleveland faced mounting pressure in recent years over their name. The team had used “Indians” as their name since 1915, but this name has been widely perceived as offensive to Native Americans. In July, the team announced through their official Twitter account that they would change their name to “Guardians” at the end of the season. Team owner Paul Dolan cited the social justice movement during the summer of 2020 as a catalyst for the change.
The team selected the name “Guardians” from over 1,000 potential names after receiving input from fans, front office members, community leaders, and others. The name was inspired by the stone sculptures on the Hope Memorial Bridge, which runs from downtown Cleveland to Ohio City. The massive edifices are known as “traffic guardians,” and they have become a popular symbol in the community. The new team logo will incorporate some of the design elements of the bridge.
In fact, the Guardians have become so popular that a roller derby team in Cleveland already uses this name. Last week, the roller derby team sued the Cleveland MLB team over the use of the name. They argue that two teams from the same city should not have the same name. Since an MLB team likely would block other teams in their city from using their name, the roller derby team feels that they are entitled to the same protections. The roller derby team alleges that the MLB team was aware of the conflict between team names before making the change. They also argue that the identical names already have caused confusion among members of the public. For example, the website of the roller derby team allegedly experienced a massive increase in traffic after the announcement of the name change, which caused it to crash and continues to affect its speed and responsiveness.
The lawsuit will proceed in a federal district court in Ohio. Among other forms of relief, the roller derby team seeks an injunction against the MLB team to prevent them from using the Guardians name or variations of the name.
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