CLEVELAND (AP) — For their delayed home opener, the Indians elected to wear their blue road jerseys with “Cleveland” on the front as a unified statement of solidarity for minorities as the team contemplates a name change.
Owner Paul Dolan recently announced the franchise is considering changing its name from Indians, which has been the club’s moniker since 1915. Typically, the team wears white jerseys with “Indians” across the chest at home.
All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor said the players decided on the switch after meeting earlier this week with Dolan to discuss the potential name change as well as race relations and social justice.
Lindor, the face of the franchise who is only under contract through 2021, stressed the move was not motivated by politics. He said it was meant to be an acknowledgment to all minorities.
“We know change is due and it is time,” Lindor said before the Indians hosted the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. “But I believe positive change can happen. Shining the light on those minorities and people who are in need, it’s extremely important.
“That’s what we’re doing out there — bringing the spotlight on those people, minorities that need the spotlight on them so their voices can be heard. Positive change can happen. We’re due for it.”
Manager Terry Francona lauded his players for doing something special for the opener and for doing something they believe in.
“The idea is not to be disrespectful, the idea is to make a point and I think this is a good way to do it,” said Francona, adding league rules may prohibit the Indians from wearing the jerseys again at home.
The Indians announced earlier this month that they are considering a name change for the team, which has been called the Indians for 105 years. On Thursday, Dolan gave more details on the team’s process going forward and said he intends to meet with Native American groups to get feedback.
Before the first pitch, a group protested on the streets surrounding the ballpark to call for the team to change its name and remove all Native American imagery.
Even if wearing the blue jerseys at home is just a one-time thing, Lindor said the gesture can have an impact.
“It’s a good start,” he said. “It can only give us hope that change will be done. We can only change things by making people acknowledge and educate themselves that change is due and to recognize that there are certain areas in life that are not right and not where they need to be.
“It’s a huge statement. I stand by my teammates. I stand by minorities and people who need the spotlight. We’re there. It’s a lifestyle. This is something that’s not just today. We want to continue to do it the whole year and next year and the rest of our lives.
“We’re not fighting the fight for us. We’re fighting the fight for our future.”
Before the game, the Indians wore black T-shirts that said “End Racism” on the fronts and “Equality” on the back.
Lindor said the team is embracing the chance to draw attention to social issues.
“As a team, the big platform we all have, we are responsible to bring awareness and let the world know we have to end racism,” he said. “We have a big, big spotlight to be able to bring that awareness to the world. We don’t have to go out there and fight, but the non-violent protests like this are huge, to be able to fight the fight without bringing violence and just expressing our feelings, it’s a big part of what we do.”