CLEVELAND — Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona had said before the team had decided to change its name that he believed it was “time to move forward” with the name change. After the team officially announced it will be changing its name, Francona said he’s proud of the organization and reflected on the upcoming transition out of the name that’s been around for over 100 years.
Although it’s only been announced for a few days, the team has been involved in discussions about a potential name change since July.
“I would say we've gone through more than a couple days of transition. I think it's probably been more public this last week,” Francona said. “But the organization has done many, many things to listen to people and to try to understand, which I think we all said early on we needed to do. I think [team owner] Paul Dolan came out early on and said he really wanted to listen. And that's what the leaders in our organization did.”
Francona said that the team’s intentions over the past 105 years were never to be disrespectful, but they found this year that just saying that “wasn’t correct anymore.”
“Regardless of how we felt about it, what was really ultimately the most important is how other people that it was affecting felt about it. So as an organization, we do what we always try to do, is do the right thing. And I'm really proud of our organization for trying to do the right thing,” Francona said.
As Dolan and many fans have stated when discussing their opinions of the name change, Francona said the most important part of the team's name is the first part: Cleveland.
“I think what's important for people to understand is, what we're really proud of is the first name of our team, which is Cleveland. And I hope you'll never hear a player say something that's contrary to that, and maybe in the next year or so, we, the fans and the people, can have some fun with something moving forward. I just don't want it to ever get lost.”
As part of the team's recent announcement, Dolan said by hearing firsthand the stories and experiences of Native American people, the team gained a deep understanding of how tribal communities feel about the team name and the detrimental effects it has on them.
"As a result of that process, we have decided to move forward with changing the current team name and determining a new, non-Native American based name for the franchise," the team said in a press release.
The team said that the decision to change the current name will be a multi-phase process and that future decisions including name identification and brand development will "take time."
"While we work to identify a new and enduring franchise name, we will continue using the Indians name," the team said.
The recent decision is one Francona is not surprised by as he said this year has brought on epiphanies for many people.
“I think this year was probably an epiphany for a lot of people. When you see some of the things that were happening, I think it made a lot of people step back and rethink some things that maybe we took for granted or we shouldn't take for granted,” Francona said.
And while the team is replacing a name that has represented it in its long history, Francona said the idea isn’t to ignore the past and forget it, but rather grow and learn from it while moving forward.
“I just think by simply saying, 'Hey, we've always done it this way, so we'll just continue to'—shoot if we did that Jackie Robinson may have never played in the game of baseball,” Francona said. “So I don't think, again, nobody was ever trying to be disrespectful. But that wasn't a good enough answer anymore. I think that's the way I look at it.”