Cleveland Roller Derby Team Aims To Block MLB Team From 'Guardians' Name

Cleveland Indians Announce Name Change to Cleveland Guardians

Photo: Getty Images

The Cleveland Guardians roller derby team has filed a federal lawsuit against Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team, which aims to use the same name.

Guardians Roller Derby filed the complaint against Cleveland Guardians Baseball Company LLC in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on Wednesday (October 27). The roller derby team is seeking to bar the former Cleveland Indians from adopting “Guardians” as their new team name.

“Two sports teams in the same city cannot have identical names,” the court filing reads. “Major League Baseball would never permit the ‘Chicago Cubs’ lacrosse or ‘New York Yankees’ rugby teams to operate alongside its storied baseball clubs and rightly so. Confusion would otherwise result. Imagine seeing a ‘New York Yankees’ shirt for sale and buying it. Which team did you just support?”

It later states that “to be blunt,” the roller derby team claimed the name first. That means the team “is thus entitled to an injunction under both federal and Ohio law against Defendant changing its team name to ‘Cleveland Guardians,’ causing confusion, and destroying Plaintiff’s trademark rights.”

Cleveland’s WKYC-TV notes that the city’s baseball team has previously said it had taken the proper legal steps to adopt Cleveland Guardians as its new name. It also notes that the team knew about the roller derby team, and that it hadn’t participated in a season since 2018. The news station also shared the full court filing.

The Cleveland Indians name change was a long time coming, particularly because of pressures that the name was offensive to Native American people. Owner Paul Dolan penned a letter to fans in December 2020, explaining the decision. Officials announced in July that the Cleveland Indians would become the Cleveland Guardians, selecting the newest name since 1915 after narrowing down a list of about 1,200 name options. The organization explained that the process involved the input of 40,000 fans surveyed, and 140 hours of interviewing fans, local leaders and front office personnel.

“‘Guardians’ reflects those attributes that define us while drawing on the iconic Guardians of Traffic just outside the ballpark on the Hope Memorial Bridge,” Dolan said in a statement at the time, referring to the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Cleveland. “It brings to life the pride Clevelanders take in our city, and the way we fight together for all who choose to be part of the Cleveland baseball family. While ‘Indians’ will always be a part of our history, our new name will help unify our fans and city as we are all Cleveland Guardians.” The MLB team has not publicly commented on the roller derby team's complaint as of publication time Wednesday morning.


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