This country is experiencing a long overdue racial reckoning — and the city of Cleveland and Major League Baseball have failed another major test. The new name for the professional baseball franchise in Cleveland — Guardians — must go. As several states work to remove imperialistic statues of cis white men, the city of Cleveland has reached into its racist past to honor them. This is not the progress that Nikole Hannah-Jones has been dreaming of.
The new mascot, for the team that will henceforth only be referenced as the ‘Cleveland Baseball Team’, is supposedly a reference to four giant stone statues that ‘guard’ the Hope Memorial Bridge just outside the city’s stadium. Hope Memorial Bridge was named after comedian and long-dead old white man, Bob Hope, who made problematic sexist and homophobic jokes over the course of his career. The statues loom over the stadium. They also loom over any progress that is expected to be made in the wake of the George Floyd murder a year ago.
The Art Deco-style statues also might remind viewers of the Ancient Greeks, who utilized slave labor in architecture, a practice that was carried over to this country, which was founded in 1619 and on no other date. Each statue possesses in their hands different means of colonial transportation, from the covered wagon, which white Christians used to colonize the lands of Indigenous folx, to the automobile which traveled across the country’s racist highway system, to the concrete-mixer truck which created racial redlines.
The racial and imperialistic overtones of the four effigies can no longer be ignored. The statues themselves should be removed in the name of anti-racism. It is an enormous step backwards for Major League Baseball and the Cleveland Baseball Team to honor such brutal and dehumanizing traditions, which mirror those symbols of Nazi Germany. As Paul Robeson once said, ‘I do not hesitate one second to state clearly and unmistakably: I belong to the American resistance movement, which fights against American imperialism, just as the resistance movement fought against Hitler.’
We as a country must heed those words now more than ever in the city of Cleveland and on their field of play. Jackie Robinson did not change history, just for history to reverse itself in America in 2021. The Cleveland Baseball Team calls Progressive Field home, but this franchise, which has set this country and this league back 100 years, are anything but. These statues must be removed — and the name must be changed.