Ontario judge dismisses application for ban on Cleveland Indians name, logo in Toronto

An Ontario Superior Court judge has dismissed an application for an injunction against the use of the Cleveland Indians name and logo.

Legal challenge brought by Indigenous activist and architect Douglas Cardinal heard in court today

Douglas Cardinal brought forward a legal challenge arguing for a ban on the use of the Cleveland Indians team name and logo in Ontario. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

An Ontario Superior Court judge has dismissed an application for an injunction against the use of the Cleveland Indians name and logo.

The legal challenge was heard in a Toronto court today as the team readied to take on the Blue Jays in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. 

Justice Thomas McEwen issued his ruling after lawyers for Indigenous activist and architect Douglas Cardinal argued that the name and logo amounted to racial discrimination in violation of Ontario's Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

"On behalf of Mr. Cardinal, we're disappointed that the court didn't grant the injunction," said Michael Swinwood, a lawyer for Cardinal who was not involved in the legal arguments but spoke on behalf of his client.

"However, we look at it this way ... we believe that the awareness around this issue has now been elevated."

Activist 'deeply disappointed'

Cardinal said in a statement Monday evening that he was "deeply disappointed" by the court's ruling.

"I hope that, one day, the Cleveland team's ownership will realize that its racist name and logo has got to go — entirely," he said.

The injunction sought to bar the use of the Cleveland logo and Indians name. (Mark Duncan/Associated Press)

Cardinal's lawyers had argued he should be able to watch the game "like every other person in Canada, without suffering from racial discrimination."

"You could not call a team the New York Jews. Why is it OK to call a team the Cleveland Indians?" lawyer Monique Jilesen said in court.

Cardinal himself did not appear in court Monday because he had an earlier invitation to go to China this week to represent Indigenous people there, according to a spokesman.

When asked by the presiding judge what a game between Toronto and Cleveland would look like if the injunction was granted, Jilesen said the team had spring training jerseys that did not have the "offending" team logo and name.

Legal action not intended to cancel game, broadcast

She also said Rogers could direct its sportscasters not to use the Cleveland team's full name during broadcast of the game, and refrain from showing the team's logo during broadcasts and on the giant screen at the Rogers Centre.

She added that Major League Baseball, to comply with an injunction if one was issued, would be ordered to allow the Cleveland team and Rogers to take those measures.

Jilesen noted that the legal action was not seeking to cancel the game or its broadcast, nor was it seeking to stop fans from using the team name or logo.

"The game can go ahead, the team can play, there would be no loss of enjoyment for any viewers," she said. "And Indigenous people can watch, at a minimum, with a reduced amount of discriminatory iconography."

'Virtually impossible' not to show name and logo: Rogers

The challenge came on the grounds the team name and logo are based on outdated and offensive stereotypes.

The logo, called Chief Wahoo, is a toothy cartoon man with red skin and a feather in his headband.

Cleveland leads the ALCS 2-0, with Game 3 scheduled for tonight in Toronto.

Rogers Communications released a statement in advance of the hearing, saying "it would be virtually impossible" to broadcast the game and not have people see the team's name or logo. 

"We understand that the Cleveland name and logo is a concern for a number of Canadians," the statement reads.

"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."

With files from The Canadian Press