An Ontario judge hearing arguments on an attempt to bar the Cleveland Indians from using their team name and "Chief Wahoo" logo during today's playoff game in Toronto asked the plaintiff's lawyer how the game would be played if the name and logo didn't appear.
Philip Yenyo, left, executive director of the American Indians Movement for Ohio, talks with a Cleveland Indians fan before a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, in Cleveland.
Source: Associated Press
The legal challenge by indigenous activist Douglas Cardinal comes on the same day the team plays the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.
The long-standing logo, which appears on some team caps and jerseys, depicts a grinning, red-faced cartoon with a feather headband.
Lawyer Monique Jilesen told Ontario Superior Court Justice Tom McEwen the game could be played with spring training uniforms that don't carry the name or "Chief Wahoo" logo. Jilesen said the club was informed of this Sunday, and there is no attempt to stop the game.
"Using a racially discriminatory caricature is a violation of the Ontario human rights code," Jilesen told the judge.
At least 27 lawyers representing the Cleveland Indians, Major League Baseball and others, including the plaintiffs, attended the hearing, which was moved to a larger court room to accommodate the crowd. Michael Swinwood, one of Cardinal's lawyers, said the judge will rule before Monday night's game.
Major League Baseball said it "appreciates the concerns" of those who find the name and logo "offensive."
"We would welcome a thoughtful and inclusive dialogue to address these concerns outside the context of litigation," the league said in a statement. "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."
Cardinal's lawyers asked the court to bar the usage of the name and logo by the team, MLB and Toronto team owner Rogers Communications, which rebroadcasts the TBS game in Canada.
Cardinal believes the team shouldn't be allowed to wear their regular jerseys, the logo shouldn't be broadcast and the team should be referred to as "the Cleveland team."
"It's quite obviously a derogatory, cartoonish representation of an indigenous person," Swinwood said. "The whole concept of how it demeans native people is essentially his concern."
Swinwood said the legal challenge is a high-profile opportunity to bring awareness to the racism aboriginal people face in North America.
Kent Thomson, a lawyer for Rogers, told the judge that Rogers would have to black out the game in Canada because they can't control what TBS shows during the game.
"It would punish millions and millions of Canadians, Blue Jays fans, and owners of bars and restaurants across the country," Thomson said.
He said the case was sprung on them late Friday night and noted that Cardinal won't even be watching the game because he's in China.