CLEVELAND — While the Cleveland Indians' home opener might be unconventional in many ways, at least one tradition is still taking place.
Prior to first pitch between the Indians and the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, protesters gathered outside of Progressive Field to voice their displeasure with the Indians' team name.
Earlier this month, Indians owner Paul Dolan said the franchise was holding discussions that could ultimately result in the franchise changing its name. On Thursday, he said the team would consult with Native American leaders and other groups to determine the best path forward.
“As we approach Opening Day, I wanted to provide an update regarding our team name and our plan moving forward. In our July 3rd statement, we shared a commitment to listening and learning from our community, and we appreciate the passionate response over the past several weeks," Dolan said.
"Earlier this week, I had a candid and productive meeting with Terry [Francona] and our players, where they expressed their desire to help our organization in this process. Our players care about the organization and feel strongly about social justice and racial equality. I support their interest in using their platform to unite our city and our nation through their actions.
"As I explained to our players, I am invested in engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to help determine the best path forward with regard to our team name. In the coming weeks, we will engage Native American leaders to better understand their perspectives, meet with local civic leaders, and continue to listen to the perceptions of our players, fans, partners and employees," he said. "We feel a real sense of urgency to discuss these perspectives with key stakeholders while also taking the time needed to ensure those conversations are inclusive and meaningful."
"We will continue to share periodic updates as we make progress. In the meantime, we are excited for our team to return to the field to continue our pursuit of a World Series Championship."
Protests over Cleveland Indians' name take place ahead of opener
On Friday, the Indians will wear their navy road alternate uniforms, which read "CLEVELAND" across the chest. All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor said the decision came as the result of the meeting Dolan mentioned and as an acknowledgement of the change ahead.
"We're wearing the Cleveland jersey to bring awareness and continue to bring awareness and we hope that's a start of change," Lindor said. "We know change is due and it is time, but I believe that positive change can happen. Shining the light on those minorities and people that are in need, it's extremely important. And today, by wearing the Cleveland jersey, 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 and we're due for it."
Asked if the Indians would only be wearing Cleveland-branded jerseys moving forward, Lindor said he wasn't sure.
In addition to their jerseys, Indians players took the field for batting practice on Friday wearing black and white t-shirts that read "end racism." Progressive Field also displayed "Black Lives Matter" on outfield scoreboard throughout pre-game warmups.