In 2020, we are seeing athletes, sponsors, and fans ask their teams and universities to make a real change to their image across the sports landscape. One easy, simplistic way to begin that change is through language. More specifically, the names we use to refer to schools, mascots, and team names carry weight. And changing them may be a tangible step in moving in the right direction. As seen last week, the Washington Racial Slurs are looking to change their name. Next in line, in professional sports, will be the Cleveland Indians. 

If we were to dole out credit, Cleveland did begin this process a couple of years ago… in the slowest way possible. In January of 2018, Cleveland agreed to officially drop the “Chief Wahoo” logo from their on-field presence. The logo was completely replaced by promoting the “Block C” logo, which the team made the primary logo in 2014. While this did not change the name across the jerseys, it did right a wrong. 

Chief Wahoo was a racially insensitive cartoon logo the franchise first established in 1947, and as the caricature evolved over time it became alarmingly more problematic. For the last 36-years it was used, Chief Wahoo was a grinning red face that became tied very closely to the marketing of Cleveland sports. Universities like Ferris State and the Cleveland Art Institute have included Wahoo in exhibits on racist memorabilia.

Wahoo may have been officially ditched in 2018, but the imprint on the franchise remains in their name

But even with Wahoo retired recently, the name “Indians” is problematic. Not only is Cleveland using an ethnic group of human beings as a mascot, but the term “Indian” has been an outdated term for indigenous peoples for decades. As a country, it’s time to move on. And what better place to start that move than with than America’s past time?

Cleveland’s professional baseball team has been nicknamed the Indians since 1915. Prior, they went by a handful of nicknames: The Rustlers, Lake Shores, Bluebirds, Broncos, and Naps. Following Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie’s exodus, baseball writers threw around some names and landed on Cleveland Indians. The Cleveland Indians was a casual nickname given to the AA Cleveland Spiders, who had Louis Sockalexis (a member of the Penobscot Indigenous People) a decade earlier. 

Luckily for Cleveland… We at Belly Up are here to help. Below, we’ve come up with some new names for the franchise. Just like they listened to sportswriters 105-years ago, we aim to be the voice of reason. At the bottom, let us know which one they should run with by voting for one of our ideas!

Parker’s Nominated Name: Cleveland Rocks

“Cleveland Rocks” is both a calling and an ode to the joys of simplicity

Yes, we will hear the song at every 7th inning stretch. All across the country, much like Boston and “Sweet Caroline,” crowds will be shouting, “Cleveland Rocks!” along to the Ian Hunter tune (though, to be fair… the more American version may be The Presidents’ cover of it for The Drew Carey Show). Cleveland Rocks stems from a catchy, repetitive, rock song near and dear to northeast Ohio. It’s already frequently played in Cleveland after a Cavalier, Indian, or Browns win…. Ok so maybe that’s not that frequently, but hey 2016 was pretty cool right?

The song itself pays homage to the historic Rock and Roll scene, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland. The double entendre between plain rocks and rock and roll is perfect for a town as quirky as Cleveland. For the logo, you can play off of a rock and an electric guitar, one on top of the other. Sure, a simple rock with a bunch of dimples walking around may seem plain… but so does Cleveland. As for animated mascots running around? The song gives you the name! Jumpin James Jean will be in full cartoon baseball uniform walking around the stadium greeting the kids and families…

Oh and the kids? Stadiums are relying more and more on entertainment in stadium for the little ones. At the home of the Cleveland Rocks, you will be able to visit “On The Skids,” which is where the song says the kids are growing up. And the colors? Grey, grey, and more grey… BUT! You can have a cool, granite pattern across the uniforms to make them unique. The colors offer simplicity, but the pattern allows for modernity and creativity. 

And if ya don’t like ‘em, kick rocks!

Chaka’s Nominated Name: Cleveland Baseball Club

Cleveland’s Baseball team has a history that spans over 100 years… why not just honor that?

I’m tired, guys!

No, I didn’t have some raucous celebration for the 4th of July- heck I didn’t even light a single firework!

I did throw down some baby back ribs, but that is neither here nor there.

I’m tired of these racially insensitive names and teams growing a conscience ONLY in the face of financial ramification, a la the Washington football team.

I am also tired of the people defending the names in message boards and on social media.

You know, I have actually seen these fools out here saying things like “The name is meant to be an honor- know your history!”

Did… did you just…

You know what I teach? 

To paraphrase the great American philosopher, Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones; “I have to stop beefin’ with fools, ‘cause I’m like ether to fools!”

The damn team got this name because a bunch of writers chose it! In fact, the evidence shows that the team had one player on the team of indigenous ancestry and the newspapers of the day made racist caricatures and jokes in reference to this player and the franchise.

Where is the honor in that?

How about we stop with this foolishness of taking sports teams and denigrating entire swaths of people by using their ethnicity the same way we use animals or inanimate objects (I’m looking at you too, Notre Dame- but y’all ain’t ready)?

Stop telling people they should be “honored” and listen! Listen when Native American psychologists tell you of the harm these mascots cause. Have some empathy and humanity.

Unless these franchises have some illustrious history, that I don’t know about or can’t find evidence of, with supporting indigenous lands and people, hiring Native Americans in managerial positions and front offices, or some other means of provoking real change for the plights of our native brothers and sisters- stop it with these fake honors!

You know what, since this franchise has a history of sucking SO BAD at selecting a name, I’m treating you like a four-year-old. If you can’t do this naming thing right, then you don’t get to have a name at all.

It works with European soccer, and some of those franchises have illustrious histories of winning! Maybe it will work for a loser franchise and even help boost tourism!

Oh, and for you fake fans who say you’ll stop supporting franchises that change their names, go read about former professional football player in Washington D.C., Brian Mitchell. 

Try some real perspective on for size, instead of that fake animosity!

Kev’s Nominated Name: Cleveland River Fires

The Cuyahoga River fire of 1960, one of the fires of Kev’s inspiration

Cleveland is an absolute dumpster fire. When you think of Cleveland, you think of LeBron James, shitty sports teams, and the Cuyahoga River. Well, maybe not by name, but you know the river. It has caught fire at least 13 times, causing $1 million in damage in 1952. Why not name the team that hasn’t won a championship since the early days of the Cold War after the most toxic river in the country? It will also keep expectations low, as they should be for any team on Lake Erie. 

The River Fires also fits Cleveland sports perfectly. The Land’s greatest sports moments of the last 50 years have been LeBron James, losing the World Series in 2016, and Kevin Costner pulling off the greatest draft day heist in (fictional) sports history. All Cleveland sports should be burnt to the ground, but because I don’t want to go to jail for arson, making the team the River Fired is a close second.


Below, vote for which of the names is your choice. Have a better idea? Respond in the comments to let us know what you’re thinking and why!

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About Author

Parker Ainsworth

Senior NBA Writer, Co-Host of "F" In Sports and The Midweek Midrange. Parker is a hoops head, "retired" football player, and sneaker aficionado. Austinite born in Houston, located in Dallas after a brief stint in LA... Parker is a well-traveled Texan, teacher, and coach. Feel free to contact Parker-

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