COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – When Columbus Crew fans park outside Lower.com Field this season, the most dedicated who chose to support the team with its logo on their license plates may be wrong – or at least out of date.
The same goes for Cleveland Guardians fans, whose baseball team recently rebranded with a new name and logo.
That’s because the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, as a result of its overall license plate redesign that launched last week, is still in the process of updating the special plates for those two teams.
Ohio redesigned its license plate last fall, replacing the clean white, red and silver standard since 2013 with a colorful landscape design featuring urban and natural scenes. At the top, the Wright Flyer carries a banner with the state tourism logo.
The design used for special organization plates – think sports team, university and advocacy logos – puts the top portion on a minimalist blue and white gradient.
Despite this redesign that launched Dec. 29, the Crew plate still has the old circular logo the team ditched in May in favor of one resembling the Ohio flag. Crew plates between then and Dec. 29, too, did not feature the team’s new mark.
As for the Cleveland baseball team, it’s still called the Indians on its license plate, even though the team rebranded to Guardians in November to move away from a controversial Native American moniker.
The logo on the team’s license plate is also still the block “C” instead of one of the new Guardians marks.
“As we were in the process of implementing the new Sunrise in Ohio plate design for the state of Ohio, all logo revisions were put on hold,” BMV spokesperson Lindsey Bohrer told NBC4. “The process to revise a logo can take up to 90 days.”
“We will begin working with the organizations as resources become available,” she said.
Teams, sports commission in talks with BMV
Drivers can get a sports team plate by paying a $35 annual fee on top of registration fees, with $25 going toward sponsoring organizations.
Specialty license plates are enacted by the Ohio legislature, and state law outlines where proceeds from sports team plates go. For example, $25 from Crew plate purchases go to the Greater Columbus Sports Commission and the Crew’s foundation, according to the team.
The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission notes it receives a percentage of Indians plate purchases, while $2.50 from each plate goes to the team’s charity for philanthropy efforts. The commission “receives the majority of plate revenue to help offset costs for bringing major sporting events to Northeast Ohio.”
Crew plates brought in $15,925 last year and Indians plates $26,275, Bohrer said. 536 Crew plates are currently on the road since debuting in 2015, she said, along with 925 Indians plates since launching in 2000.
“A new logo takes a while to implement in all the places it can be seen, no matter the industry,” Linda Logan, executive director of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, said in a statement. “We’ll continue working with the Crew and BMV to get the new Crew logo on the back of cars as soon as feasible.”
Crew spokesperson Tim Miller told NBC4 the team is “in dialogue” with the BMV as part of the plate update process and the team anticipates the new logo will be on Crew plates “in the near future.”
A spokesperson for the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission directed NBC4 to the Guardians for comment about that delayed plate change.
“We are aware of the current lag time in updating the specialty plates program due to the transition to the new state plate design,” team spokesperson Austin Controulis said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing our new logo on the specialty plates when the time comes.”
Native group upset with Guardians delay
The Cleveland baseball team changed its name to Guardians following decades of criticism for using Native American imagery. The team had already nixed its controversial Chief Wahoo logo, a red-faced caricature of a Native American, after the 2018 season.
Research has shown the use of Native American mascots and team names harms Native young peoples’ social development and self-esteem, according to the American Psychological Association.
The APA has urged since 2005 that schools and sports teams retire Native mascots, because they often reaffirm negative stereotypes and undermine Native peoples’ ability to “portray accurate and respectful images of their culture, spirituality and traditions.”
“We are disheartened that the necessary plate design changes for the Cleveland MLB team will be delayed and contingent on resources,” Cynthia Connolly, executive board member of the Lake Erie Native American Council, said in a statement.
LENAC was one of the most vocal and steadfast opponents of the team’s previous name, and the Guardians website lists the group among its Native American community partner resources.
“When the Ohio BMV realized the Wright Brothers’ airplane was printed backwards, edits were made immediately,” Connolly said, alluding to a same-day fix when Ohio announced its new plate design in October.
“We encourage the Ohio BMV to prioritize and expedite changing the Cleveland MLB team plate design,” she added, “out of respect for the first people of this country and state.”