The saga of the Cleveland baseball team name change was supposed to be a counterpoint to the situation that unfolded with Washington’s football team; whereas the latter was a crushed process, Cleveland seemingly gave themselves time to do the work to find the right name, which was presumably one that both appeased fans and cleared the hurdle of IP issues that has seemingly stymied the erstwhile Football Team.
We now see the fruits of that process, and whatever extra time was spent was not spent all that wisely. The Indians announced that they were becoming the Guardians, a name that was initially met with derision before a partial re-evaluation that had at least some people saying that the name is actually OK, while pointing out aren’t all team names kind of dumb, anyway? It’s not the strongest argument for the name when its defenders are trying to hoist it over a significantly lowered bar, but at the very least we can be sure that the team picked a name that wasn’t going to run into trademark issues, right?
In typical Cleveland sports fashion, nothing’s over until it's over, and like Earnest Byner in 1988, the team seems to have fumbled so close to the end. Not long after the Guardians announcement came reports that a local roller derby team was also named the Cleveland Guardians, and it should come as no shock that the very same team filed for a trademark on their name on the day of the Indians’ announcement.
There was always a chance that the team was going to run into some issues with selecting a new name, given that enterprising individuals have made a sport of guessing what name might be landed on and filing a trademark before the organization can in hopes of landing a big payday. (Those people will be disappointed once they find out about the spendthrift nature of Cleveland ownership; the best they can hope for is a modest payout, if anything.) Still, you would think that the team would have resolved any such issues before taking the step of settling on a name and announcing it to the public. And yet it seems that the Indians are content to try and do battle with the roller derby Guardians over the IP rights, believing that they’ve done the necessary maneuvering to win out with their own applications.
And they may be right. It’s hard to imagine that the roller derby squad has much for legal resources, or that there isn’t a dollar figure that would ultimately satisfy the organization should the legal machinations prove too protracted, one that even the notoriously stingy Indians could afford. Even as it seems likely that the baseball team will ultimately take the field in 2022 with Guardians across their jerseys rather than Legal Action Pending, it’s hard not to think that more could have been done to make the rollout seem like the homework was done, rather than being as haphazard as their football counterparts in D.C.