A Canadian indigenous activist has filed for an injunction against the Cleveland Indians in several Canadian courts and tribunals, seeking to ban Cleveland Indians jerseys, logos, and even the team’s name when they play against Toronto this week.
According to a report from the National Post, Douglas Cardinal, an officer of the Order of Canada (which is roughly equivalent to a British knighthood,) has filed applications to the Ontario Superior Court, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the Canadian Human Rights Commission seeking to ban all references to the Cleveland Indians name and mascot on the grounds that they are offensive and discriminatory. The applications are filed against the Cleveland Indians, Major League Baseball, and Rogers Communications.
Cardinal is also of Blackwood descent, and, according to his lawyer, Michael Swinwood, “Mr. Cardinal, who has long fought for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, has simply had enough. Canadian law clearly prohibits discrimination of this nature.”
“Major League Baseball is a unique product but that does not give baseball teams license for such wanton discrimination.”
Swinwood is not involved in the proceedings, but noted that “it also violates my client’s right to equal treatment and the rights of indigenous peoples across Canada and everywhere else the name and logo are used.”
According to CBC, at the beginning of the season and amidst mounting pressure, Cleveland Indians owner Paul Dolan indicated that the logo, known as “Chief Wahoo,” had been “demoted” but that the team would continue to use it.
“[We have] no plans to get rid of Chief Wahoo. It is part of our history and legacy.”
Cardinal’s filing is the latest in a public climate increasingly hostile to perceived racism and discrimination. Earlier in the year, the United Church of Canada and United Church of Christ urged the team to change their name, pressure which has also been applied to the Washington Redskins. Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Ranu Mandhane has also urged news outlets not to use the name, according to the National Post.
“We should be displaying more consciousness in the choices we make in relation to logos,” said Swinwood. “It’s offensive to indigenous people, and it needs to be addressed.” He added that he feels that the Cleveland Indians should stop using their name and logo altogether.
“It’s much deeper and more profound than a logo being offensive. It’s really an indicator of why that relationship is so flawed. Because there’s this lack of recognition of what the true conditions of native peoples have been over the last 500 years.”
Another spokesperson for Cardinal, James Fuller, urged Canadian commentators to refer to them simply as “the Cleveland team” and indicated that he was under the impression that Cleveland has alternate jerseys, without the Chief Wahoo logo, which they can wear.
Rogers Communications spokesperson Aaron Lazarus addressed the application, indicating that broadcasting the game without displaying the Cleveland Indians name or logo would be “virtually impossible.” He said that while they understand that the name and logo are “a concern for a number of Canadians,” that “the playoff series between the Jays and Cleveland is also significantly important to millions of passionate baseball fans across Canada. Punishing these fans by blocking the broadcast of the games doesn’t seem like the right solution.”
He also noted that the application doesn’t include anything borne by fans, who are likely to be sporting the team’s name and logo during the game.
Meanwhile, a representative for the Cleveland Indians indicated that they were aware of the situation, but declined to comment further.
A hearing on the application will be held in front of the Superior Court on Monday.
[Featured Image by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images]