Guardians minority owner Matt Kaulig thinks team name has stuck with fans since change from Indians

on Sep22
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Native American team names in sports have sparked debate for years, and Cleveland knows all about the controversy.

For decades, the name of MLB’s Cleveland Indians was viewed as offensive by certain groups. After backlash and protests, the organization changed its name to the Cleveland Guardians. 

Recently, the NFL’s Washington Commanders have seen support for the franchise returning to the Redskins. 

The Native American Guardians Association (NAGA) told Fox News Digital in a recent interview “toxic ignorance” led to recent pressure to remove Native American sports team names.


The Cleveland Guardians logo on a jersey

A close-up of the Cleveland Guardians’ logo on the jersey of Myles Straw during the third inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field April 20, 2022, in Cleveland.  (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Washington’s new ownership group under Josh Harris quickly put an end to that notion. And it appears the Guardians are moving into their new era with confidence their rebrand has gone over well with the city of Cleveland. 

Guardians minority owner Matt Kaulig, an Ohio native whose Kaulig Companies is based less than 30 miles southeast of Cleveland, thinks it has. 

“I actually like the Guardians name now,” Kaulig told Fox News Digital at CC Sabathia’s 3rd Annual Charity Golf Tournament, where he was the title sponsor for the former Cleveland starter’s PitCCh In Foundation event. 


“At first, everybody resists change anyway. Anything that changes — if I change my name — it would be hard to get used to.”

Kaulig, who also owns NASCAR’s Kaulig Racing, was a part of the David Blitzer investment group that purchased a 25-30% stake in the franchise last year with the option to purchase a controlling interest in years to come. 

CC Sabathia and Matt Kaulig pose for photo

New York Yankees legend CC Sabathia and Matt Kaulig, owner of Kaulig Racing and Kaulig Companies, poses at the PitCCH In Foundation Charity Golf Tournament event. (PitCCH In Foundation)

Having roots both personally and professionally in the Northeast Ohio area — Kauling was also a quarterback at the University of Akron from 1992 to 1995 — Kauling understands the franchise’s history.

But he also thinks the organization did well to pay homage to that era with the new name. 


“The Guardians did an unbelievable job of keeping the same color scheme. Even the uniforms, it looks like the Indians’ [old uniform]. They’ve done a really good job,” Kaulig said, as Sabathia nodded his head in agreement. 

Perhaps the biggest reason Kaulig feels the transition has gone smoothly was the Guardians’ surprising finish as the AL Central division champions in 2022. The young team, led by veteran third baseman Jose Ramirez and others, was a gritty squad that went 92-70. 

Matt Kaulig at Talladega

Matt Kaulig, owner of Kaulig Racing, before the running of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Ag-Pro 300 April 22, 2023, at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala. (Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

While they eventually fell to Sabathia’s Yankees in the American League Division Series, that performance in the franchise’s first year as the Guardians ushered in the new era perfectly in Kaulig’s eyes. 

“I think a key to them last year was they were good,” he explained. “If they would’ve changed the name to Guardians and had a bad season, I think you would’ve lost a lot of fans. You would’ve lost a lot of Indians fans. You would’ve lost a lot of Cleveland Fans. 

“But they didn’t. I think they’ve gained a bunch of fans by performing well.”

Today, teams like the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and MLB’s Atlanta Braves continue to face vitriol and pressure to change. 

And while some may feel Indians is still appropriate — a petition exists to “Bring Back the Cleveland Indians Name” online with over 1,500 signatures — Kaulig feels the Guardians are on the right path to success as the franchise looks ahead to more winning with a new name.

Matt Kaulig smiles at racetrack

Matt Kaulig, owner of Kaulig Racing, walks the grid prior to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Credit Karma Money 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway July 10, 2021, in Hampton, Ga. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)


Kaulig’s and Sabathia’s ties to Cleveland have resulted in charitable work since the two met years ago at a Top Golf. Their commitment to impacting youth in the city through the PitCCH In Foundation is why Kaulig continues to support Sabathia’s efforts in New Jersey, California and New York by being his charity golf tournament’s title sponsor the last three years. 

“It’s really great what CC and Amber [Sabathia] have done and do for the community and kids. It’s great to be involved,” Kaulig said. 

Sabathia added, “To be able to do an event here is just incredible, and to be able to have Kaulig and everybody involved, it just feels special.”

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