Peter Edwards of the Toronto Star reports that Major League Baseball, as well as the Cleveland team and Rogers Communications, failed to have a discrimination claim, pertaining to the use of Chief Wahoo and the Indians team name, thrown out on jurisdictional grounds.
An activist, Douglas Cardinal, filed a claim during the playoffs last year when the Indians were in Toronto to play the Blue Jays in the ALCS. Cardinal suggested that the use of Chief Wahoo and “Indians” as a team name were offensive and discriminatory under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
In a prepared statement, Cardinal said:
As an Indigenous person, I am encouraged that the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has accepted jurisdiction over my complaint and agrees that it can proceed to a hearing.
Unfortunately, the consciousness of genocide and apartheid continues to be fostered by the insensitive use of demeaning and degrading symbols, mocking indigenous peoples. This must cease in order for reconciliation to have any meaning and substance.
Tribunal adjudicator Jo-Anne Pickel ruled last month that “the applicant has asserted a sufficient personal interest to have standing to bring this application.”
If Cardinal wins his court case, the Indians would have to wear uniforms absent the word “Indians” and the Wahoo imagery while playing the Blue Jays in Canada. Which they already kind of do anyway, as the club has uniforms with “Cleveland” across the chest and it has adopted a block C logo where the Wahoo logo used to be in perpetuity.
We’ve written about Chief Wahoo, the Braves’ “tomahawk chop,” and even the Redskins in various capacities over the years. So it’s no surprise when we say we side with Cardinal. There’s simply no upside in this day and age to continue to use words and imagery that are blatantly offensive. It’s not smart from a business perspective, as it alienates certain groups of consumers. It’s not smart from a practical standpoint, as teams’ front office personnel use precious time and resources fighting superfluous court battles. And, most important of all, it’s not smart from a humanity standpoint. With so many words and images available with which to brand one’s team, why settle on those that mock disenfranchised groups of people?
Baseball’s audience is the oldest on average compared to other popular sports, and it’s very white and male. So, it’s no surprise that a lot of baseball fans hate the thought of the Cleveland Indians changing its name and mascot. But those people will eventually die off. Today’s youth, which is relatively more concerned about issues of racism, will grow up and have spending power, and Major League Baseball will want them sitting in ballpark seats. MLB will have trouble courting them with racist iconography. Even if the humanity argument doesn’t persuade one — which it should, full stop — the business angle should be convincing enough to anyone involved in fighting this battle to preserve Chief Wahoo that it’s a lost cause.