Canadian court rules against lawsuit seeking to ban Indians name and mascot

Big League Stew

Ontario Superior Court on Monday ruled against a lawsuit from an activist who was seeking to ban the Cleveland Indians’ team name and mascot during the Toronto portion of the American League Championship Series.

The series starts its Toronto leg on Monday, with the Blue Jays and the Indians playing Games 3, 4 and 5 at Rogers Centre. The ruling from judge Tom McEwen came after a full day of arguments, just hours before first pitch.

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There was no immediate reason given for the decision, only that the lawsuit was shot down and the injunction it sought against the Indians, Major League Baseball and Rogers Communications had been squashed. A written decision is expected to be released in the next few days.

The suit was filed Friday by Douglas Cardinal, a Canadian architect and member of the Blackfoot tribe. Cardinal, 82, is a prominent activist in the indigenous community. He also is the designer of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Cardinal wanted the Indians to play as Cleveland or “the Cleveland team” and wanted Rogers Communications (which broadcasts Blue Jays games and also owns the team) to take all references to the Indians name and Chief Wahoo logo out of its broadcasts.

A Canadian activist tried to get an injunction against the Indians team name and logo. (Getty Images)
A Canadian activist tried to get an injunction against the Indians team name and logo. (Getty Images)

His attorney Monique Jilesen argued: “Someone like Mr. Cardinal ought to be able to watch the game, like every other person in Canada, without suffering from racial discrimination.”

As it turned out, one of the most talked about issues in court Monday revolved around Cardinal being in China during the Toronto portion of the series. Attorneys arguing against his injunction said that alone should have been enough to throw out his petition. But Cardinal’s attorneys argued he could watch the game through MLB’s streaming services that reach to China.

Attorneys for Rogers Communications also argued that it would be impossible for the team to wipe out all references to the Indians even if it stopped using the team’s name and logo in broadcasts. Fans wearing Indians logos, for instance, couldn’t be excluded from live TV.

Major League Baseball’s attorneys argued that it would be impossible for the Indians to change their uniforms on such short notice. Cardinal’s attorney said the team could wear its spring-training uniforms that didn’t depict the Indians or their Chief Wahoo logo.

That, however, was counted by MLB’s attorney saying that some players — such as relief pitcher Andrew Miller, who was acquired in a trade mid-season — didn’t have a spring-training uniform.

Even though his lawsuit failed, Cardinal called the entire situation a win-win in a statement via his attorney:

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.

We had hoped the court would recognize the immediate harm that the Cleveland baseball team racist’s [sic] 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.

I hope that, one day, the Cleveland team’s ownership will realize that its racist name and logo has got to go – entirely. Until then, we will continue to argue our case before the appropriate legal authorities, and call upon everyone who supports our cause for equality to stand with us and express their support for the Indigenous Persons of North America. #NotYourMascot

Major League Baseball released the following statement before the decision came in:

“Major League Baseball appreciates the concerns of those that find the name and logo of the Cleveland Indians to be offensive. We would welcome a thoughtful and inclusive dialogue to address these concerns outside the context of litigation. Given the demands for completing the League Championship Series in a timely manner, MLB will defend Cleveland’s right to use their name that has been in existence for more than 100 years.”

As if there were any doubt, MLB’s statement seems to indicate what we all know: This fight isn’t going away anytime soon.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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