At the beginning of our team name decision-making process, we engaged a number of representatives of the Native American community including local and national organizations, leading researchers, and individuals willing to share their personal stories, as well as several local civic leaders.
We understand that there are differing viewpoints and opinions within the Native American community, and we made a concerted effort to speak with a multitude of groups and individuals. These conversations were both enlightening and, at times, challenging. And while views may have differed, there were several consistent themes that surfaced throughout the majority of our discussions:
- Many of the Native Americans we spoke with described feeling as though the true narrative of their people - the story of who they are - has been erased and replaced by things like our team name. For local Native families, the name can make it especially challenging for children to find a place for their Native identity in the community around them.
- Many of the groups we met with shared that pop culture has a large influence on how their community is perceived. They expressed a belief that instead of immediately thinking about modern members of society who may be doctors, teachers, or engineers, many people tend to first think of a caricature of “Indians”.
- Many stakeholder groups also revealed the importance of moving toward a non-Native American-based name, noting that names such as Tribe can be just as damaging to under-represented populations in our community.
- Cleveland civic leaders shared that our name was having a negative impact on various communities of color - not just Native American communities. Individuals felt our name prevents us from building an inclusive relationship with the broader Cleveland community.
- Those we spoke with reinforced that people view sports as a unifying force for their cities – especially in Cleveland. As a leader in the community, we have the ability to unite people from different backgrounds and bring them together, and we believe a new name will allow us to do this more fully.