Ontario judge dismisses application for injunction on 'Cleveland Indians' name
Joshua Freeman, CTV Toronto
Published Monday, October 17, 2016 5:22AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 17, 2016 6:41PM EDT
An Ontario judge has dismissed an application by an indigenous rights activist to have Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team barred from using its name and logo in Ontario ahead of Game 3 of the American League Championship Series in Toronto tonight.
The judge did not immediately provide reasons for his decision, but the ruling means that the game and broadcast will be able to proceed as usual.
The legal challenge was launched by activist Douglas Cardinal, who is also a prominent architect and officer of the Order of Canada.
“I am deeply disappointed in the court’s ruling, however, today was a victory in that we have elevated awareness of this serious issue at a national -- and even international – level,” Cardinal said in a statement released through his lawyer Michael Swinwood after the judgment. “We had hoped the court would recognize the immediate harm that the Cleveland baseball team racist’s name and logo would cause, especially since the team has already demonstrated its ability to wear a jersey without an offensive name and mascot.
“That this kind of discrimination is not a violation of human rights underscores the challenge Indigenous Persons of North America continue to face.”
Earlier Monday, Swinwood told CP24 that the team’s Chief Wahoo logo “depicts native people -- indigenous people -- in a demeaning and derogatory and discriminatory way.”
The logo depicts a cartoon character with red skin wearing a headband with a feather attached.
Cardinal's lawyers argued that the name and logo amounted to racial discrimination and constituted a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code and Canada's Human Rights Act.
The lawyers suggested the team could use spring training jerseys - which didn't have the full name and logo - during their games in Toronto.
In a statement sent out Monday afternoon, Rogers Communications, which own the Toronto Blue Jays and is broadcasting the MLB playoff series, said it would be “virtually impossible” to air the games without showing Cleveland’s team name and logo.
“We understand that the Cleveland name and logo is a concern for a number of Canadians. The playoff series between the Jays and Cleveland is also significantly important to millions of passionate baseball fans across Canada,” the statement read.
“Punishing these fans by blocking the broadcast of the games doesn't seem like the right solution.”
There was no immediate reaction from Rogers or the team following the judgment.
The case itself set off a storm of commentary online with some baseball fans expressing support and others voicing anger at the suggestion that the name should be changed.
Weighing in on the matter during an event on Monday, Mayor John Tory said he sees it as a good thing if the case starts a discussion about whether some team names are outdated and in need of a change.
“I think that it’s an important step forward in that it is raising awareness of things that are in 2016, things we should be discussing,” Tory said. “I think that most people would agree that the place where the initiative has to take place to change names that are outdated and offensive and to get on with that process is in the sports leagues themselves and with the sports team owners themselves.”
He suggested that teams with controversial names could hold contests to find more appropriate names and logos.
“That’s the way these problems are going to be solved. That’s where the initiative I think should be taken and not through the court system which is really not meant necessarily to deal with things like this.”
Tory, a former CFL commissioner, also said that Canadian teams such as the Edmonton Eskimos, should be included in such a reexamination.
“While there are those who will say ‘it’s tradition,’ yes it is,” Tory said. “But is it a tradition that’s acceptable anymore in 2016 when we know that is not a way that indigenous people would consider a respectful way of referring to them.”
Tonight’s game at the Rogers Centre starts at 8:08 p.m.
- With files from The Canadian Press