CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians might be getting a new name, and it's a topic that has divided fans and analysts alike.
However, it appears the unquestioned leader of the team may be ready to move on from the 105-year-old moniker.
"I think it's time to move forward," manager Terry Francona said during a Sunday press conference. "Even at my age, you don't want to be too old to learn or realize that maybe I've been ignorant of some things and to be ashamed of it and to try to be better."
Although Francona did not specifically say what he felt the club's final decision should be, this marks one of the first times an active member of the Tribe's leadership has stated his or her supposed preference for doing away with the nickname. Francona acknowledged it's an issue he and the front office have discussed privately "for years," and that his own thinking has evolved over time.
"I know in the past...I think I would usually answer and say, 'I know that we're never trying to be disrespectful,'" he said. "I still feel that way, but I don't think that's a good enough answer today."
Francona's roots with the Indians run deep: Besides achieving great success as the team's manager for the last seven years and playing for them in 1988, his late father Tito was a star for Cleveland in the late '50s and '60s and often took his son to games at old Municipal Stadium. It's a history the future Hall of Fame manager relishes, but he knows it doesn't discount the larger discussions at play.
"I'm glad that we're going to be open to listening," Francona said. "I think that's probably the most important thing right now is being able to listen, not necessarily just talk."
With topics of racial and social justice now at the forefront following the death of George Floyd, the subject of Native American-themed names of sports teams that has been debated for decades has again become a lightening rod. Following calls from top sponsors this past week, the NFL's Washington Redskins announced they too would look at altering their identity, something current owner Dan Snyder previously said would "NEVER" happen.
The Indians have carried their current nickname since 1915, and for a long time the official story was that it honored Native American Louis Sockalexis of the National League's Cleveland Spiders. Although there is a modicum of truth to that story, historians have partially discredited that theory, and it hasn't stopped scores of Native Americans from denouncing the name and others as racially insensitive.