Cleveland Indians Sued for Taking the Name of Cleveland Guardians Roller Derby Team

Hunton Andrews Kurth Says MLB Franchise Announced New Name Despite Knowing That the Cleveland Nonprofit Plaintiff Was Using the Same Name for Years

CLEVELAND–(BUSINESS WIRE)–As Major League Baseball fans turn their attention to the World Series, the Cleveland Indians franchise faces a fresh challenge to its efforts to find a new name. The Cleveland Guardians, the long-running, nonprofit, Cleveland-based roller derby team, sued the baseball club Wednesday in federal court to block it from taking its “Cleveland Guardians” name.

“Major League Baseball would never let someone name their lacrosse team the ‘Chicago Cubs’ if the team was in Chicago, or their soccer team the ‘New York Yankees’ if that team was in New York – nor should they,” said Christopher Pardo, a partner at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP and lead attorney for the plaintiff. “The same laws that protect Major League Baseball from the brand confusion that would occur in those examples also operate in reverse to prevent what the Indians are trying to do here. By taking the name ‘Cleveland Guardians’ overnight, the Indians knowingly and willfully eviscerated the rights of the original owner of that name – the real Cleveland Guardians.”

The Cleveland Indians announced in July that it was changing its name to the Cleveland Guardians beginning next season, after more than 100 years of using the “Indians” name despite sustained objections from Native American groups and others over the years.

In the lawsuit, the Cleveland Guardians assert that just because the Cleveland Indians is a billion-dollar Major League Baseball franchise does not mean it can take and use whatever name it wants. According to the complaint, the Indians knew the Guardians existed months before announcing the name change.

“As a nonprofit organization that loves sports and the city of Cleveland, we are saddened that the Indians have forced us into having to protect the name we have used here for years,” said Gary Sweatt, the owner of Guardians Roller Derby. “We know we are in the right, however, and just like our athletes do on the track, we will put everything into this effort at the courthouse.”

The lawsuit, Guardians Roller Derby v. Cleveland Guardians Baseball Company LLC, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. A copy of the complaint is available on request. In addition to Pardo, members of the Hunton Andrews Kurth legal team include Edward Colbert, Erik Kane, William Merone and Katherine Sandberg.

For more information about the suit or to speak with one of the lawyers, please contact Leora Goldfarb at 858.603.5123 or


Leora Goldfarb