Opinion: Indians name change could shatter fanbase


Official MLB website

In late July, the Guardians released their new Fastball logo. The team’s marketing department said, “The Fastball logo embodies what it means to be a Cleveland Guardian in its strong, yet simple design. It is inspired by both the helmets and wings of Hope Memorial Bridge’s Guardians statues that keep watch over the city.”

Luke Schofield, Guest Writer

On July 23, the historic Major League Baseball club formerly known as the Indians tweeted a video with Tom Hanks narrating the reveal of their new name, Guardians. The post currently has over five million views and has made international headlines.

Meanwhile in Cleveland, many fans were outraged. Some fans even commented on the tweet that they would rather have no team than a rebranded one. The damage has been done and could prove fatal for the club’s once encouraging fanbase.

Although Cleveland is known for having die-hard fans, the city’s population has been on a steady decline since the ’50s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, declining by seven percent in the last decade alone. Small market teams like ours rely on a small group of loyal fans for revenue. As of right now, it already seems that the small group has gotten even smaller.

Even before considering the name change, the Indians’ attendance numbers peaked in the ’90s, according to ESPN’s Major League Baseball Attendance Report. Cleveland had an average of over three million in total attendance over the decade. Now that number stands at just over one million from the 2021 season and seems very unlikely to rise with a new name.

Senior Jack Dominish’s family owns season tickets and has been a loyal fan over the years. He said, “I think it just depends on if we are winning or not. I mean we usually don’t get huge crowds because we are a small market team.”

Unfortunately, the club has suffered their first losing season in nearly a decade. Paul Hoynes from cleveland.com wrote, “The Cleveland Indians are guaranteed their first losing season since 2012.”

This recent decline of victorious play from the team only adds fuel to the fire.

The current lease contract with Progressive Field is over this year. However, in August, Owen Poindexter from Front Office Sports wrote, “The club agreed to a 15-year extension of its lease at Progressive Field, keeping the team in place through 2036.”

This raised a big red flag for me, as it shows that ownership is not financially confident with the city’s support since the lease is unusually short, and not several decades-long.

Although merchandising sales make up a fraction of a baseball club’s revenue, it’s still important to sell the brand. From a fan’s perspective on merchandise sales, Excel TECC counselor Joe Hayes, who attended the Indians final home game, said, “I think it will drastically go down because Chief Wahoo will always be iconic to this city. I don’t think any new logo for the Guardians could outdo it.”

Already fans have spoken out about how the name change could be the final nail in the coffin. Dominish said, “Right now I think it’s going to be harder to really want to watch them. They just came off their first losing season in a while and they don’t really have too many star players that people really want to come watch.”

Even on a national level, the support is already limited. Hayes said, “I actually have multiple siblings that live out of state, grew up watching the Tribe, and they still do today. Some of them feel that the name change cuts off their connection with the team [because] there’s just no relationship or memories with the new name, Guardians, for them.”

After Rob Goldberg from Bleacher Report reported that Cleveland would be sending Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carasco to the Mets, it felt as if there were no true fan favorites left outside of Jose Ramirez. Not to mention, the team lost Carlos Santana just a month prior to the trade. This difficulty for fans to recognize the team makes the probability of supporting the team all that much lower.

Obviously, no one wants to see a team struggle to gain support or to struggle financially. Urging fans, Dominish said, “Just go support the team. Every ticket and jersey sold helps.”

Hopefully the rebranding is not as damaging as it appears it might be to the now Cleveland Guardians and their fanbase.