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Canada Activist seeks injunction against use of ‘Cleveland Indians’ name and logo

A fan holds a sign during game one of the American League Divison Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on October 6, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

A prominent indigenous activist and architect is seeking a court ruling that would prevent the Cleveland Indians from wearing their regular jerseys, using their team name and displaying their logo when they play against the Blue Jays in Toronto this week.

Douglas Cardinal, an officer of the Order of Canada, has filed applications to the Ontario Superior Court, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, arguing that the Cleveland Indians' team name and mascot – Chief Wahoo, a cartoon man with red skin and a feather in his headband – are offensive and discriminatory.

His application seeks an injunction against the team, Major League Baseball and Rogers Communications, which is broadcasting the American League Championship Series between the two teams.

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Rogers also owns the Blue Jays and the stadium they play in, the Rogers Centre.

Related: From Indians to Eskimos: A brief history of controversial team names

A spokesman for Mr. Cardinal said Monday morning that after a meeting between the judge, Mr. Cardinal's lawyers and lawyers for Rogers, Major League Baseball and the Cleveland team, a hearing was scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday – seven hours before game time.

It's just the latest move in a push against the team's name, as the United Church of Canada and the United Church of Christ have urged the team to change its name.

Michael Swinwood, who is Cardinal's lawyer but is not formally involved in these proceedings, said that the team should stop using its name and logo altogether.

"We should be displaying more consciousness in the choices we make in relation to logos," he said. "It's offensive to indigenous people, and it needs to be addressed."

He said that the logo reflects stereotypes and misunderstandings about indigenous cultures, lumping diverse groups of First Nations into one offensive, homogenous cartoon.

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"It's much deeper and more profound than a logo being offensive. It's really an indicator of why that relationship (between First Nations peoples and society at large) 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."

James Fuller, a spokesperson for Cardinal, said the Cleveland Indians should just be referred to as "the Cleveland team" for the time being.

He said he's under the impression that the team has jerseys without its Chief Wahoo logo that players could wear.

Aaron Lazarus, a spokesperson for Rogers Communications, said in a statement that broadcasting the game without displaying the team name or logo "on the field, in the stands and in the stadium" would be "virtually impossible," although Fuller said the application to the courts doesn't include barring fans from carrying paraphernalia with the logo or team name.

Lazarus also said that the company understands "the Cleveland name and logo is a concern for a number of Canadians," but added, "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."

A spokesperson for the law firm representing Cardinal, Lenczner Slaght, declined to comment.

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A representative from the Cleveland Indians said the team was "aware of the situation" but declined to say anything else.

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