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Church leaders, prominent architect pressure Cleveland Indians to change name

The United Church of Canada and the United Church of Christ issued a joint statement urging the baseball team to change its name, calling the move "a small but significant step toward racial justice and reconciliation." In this April 8, 2014 photo, the Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo logo is shown on the uniform sleeve of third base coach Mike Sarbaugh during a baseball game against the San Diego Padres in Cleveland, Ohio. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Duncan
October 14, 2016 - 8:44 PM

TORONTO - The Cleveland Indians faced growing pressure in Canada on Friday to ditch their name and mascot, including a court challenge.

Douglas Cardinal, a prominent aboriginal architect, has filed an application with Ontario's superior court demanding the team's name and logo not be used in the province, said a statement issued Friday.

He wants the Indians, Major League Baseball, and Rogers Communications, which is broadcasting the American League Championship Series between the two teams, to stop using both Cleveland's name and the emblem, which features a toothy red-faced character named Chief Wahoo.

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

The statement said the court challenge was to be heard by a judge on Monday. It added that Cardinal, whose many designs include the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, has also filed complaints with the Ontario human rights tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

"Mr. Cardinal, who has long fought for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, has simply had enough," his lawyer Michael Swinwood said in a statement. "Canadian law clearly prohibits discrimination of this nature."

Swinwood said using the team's name and logo constitutes discrimination under both federal and Ontario human rights laws.

The statement calls Cardinal, who is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a baseball fan.

Pressure from some Canadians opposed to Cleveland's name and logo has ramped up in recent days.

Broadcasters including Jays announcer Jerry Howarth have vowed to never use the term "Indians" because it's offensive to many First Nations people. Especially contentious is the team's logo.

Earlier Friday the United Church of Canada and the United Church of Christ issued a joint statement urging the baseball team to change its name, calling the move "a small but significant step toward racial justice and reconciliation."

The churches — whose national offices are in Toronto and Cleveland — also encouraged their members to join the #NotMyMascot campaign on social media.

"We join together to urge Cleveland's baseball team to find a new name and a new mascot — ones that do not disrespect the wide and varied histories and cultures of Indigenous peoples," says Friday's statement, signed by the United Church of Christ's Rev. John C. Dorhauer and the United Church of Canada's Right Rev. Jordan Cantwell and general secretary Nora Sanders.

The United Church of Canada noted it participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools and was committed to carrying out its call to action.

The churches said they were encouraged by the decision by some sportscasters to refer to the team simply as "Cleveland."

"This shows a growing level of awareness and a willingness to change that we must all engage in. And so, as the series gets underway this weekend, we urge all members of our churches, no matter whom they cheer for, to cheer justly — and in a spirit of reconciliation."

The team, who beat Toronto 2-0 in Game 1 of the series on Friday, said in an emailed statement that it is "cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the conversation," noting that Cleveland fans have a deep, long lasting attachment to the memories associated with Chief Wahoo.

"We continue to research our fan base to better understand their perception and stance on the logo, but at present time have no plans of making a change. We continue to have the Wahoo logo represented on our uniforms and home cap during the 2016 season."

Rogers did not immediately respond to emails on the matter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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