Native American Group Sues NFL Team Owner Over Redskins Name Change

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Nov 23, 2023 - 06:15 PM

Authored by Juliette Fairley via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A lawsuit advocating for restoring the name Redskins to the National Football League (NFL)’s Washington team alleges that a rival Native American organization improperly prompted the change to the team now called the Commanders.

Washington Redskins wide receiver David Patten (80) catches a pass in the end zone past Denver Broncos defender cornerback Darrent Williams in the first quarter in Denver, Colo., on Oct. 9, 2005. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

The Native American Guardian Association (NAGA) filed its complaint in the U.S. District Court of North Dakota against the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and Josh Harris, who acquired the team in July for $6.05 billion.

NAGA’s members were huge Redskin fans precisely because they were the Redskins,” the complaint states. “It was the only team in the NFL to honor an actual Native American.”

After accusations that Redskins is indicative of systemic racism, the team dropped the name in 2020 and renamed itself the Washington Football Team—then changed it again to the Washington Commanders in early 2022. All this despite the logo of Chief John Two Guns White Calf’s image was gifted to the team by the Blackfeet tribe in the early 1970s to help educate Americans about Native America.

I really appreciate the history and tradition that came with the name,” author M. Andre Billeaudeaux told The Epoch Times. “I was disappointed to see that they folded without much of a fight.”

Mr. Billeaudeaux—who wrote "How the Redskins Got Their Name"—is also on NAGA’s leadership committee.

NAGA alleges in the lawsuit that Mr. Harris, through his team executives, solicited NCAI to selectively discriminate against Native Americans who continue to support the Redskins name.

A Washington Post poll in 2016 found that nine in 10 Native Americans weren’t offended by the Redskins name.

“For Native Americans, their culture, history, and identity are at stake, but this lawsuit also impacts every American because it challenges the elites trying to alter American history,” New York attorney Chad LaVeglia told The Epoch Times.

Mr. LaVeglia represents the plaintiffs in "Native American Guardians Association v. Washington Commanders et al" alleging defamation, civil conspiracy, and conspiracy to violate civil rights.

William Dieckman, a member of the Kiowa tribe of Oklahoma, was devastated by the name change because he felt represented by the name Redskins.

“That's been my team my whole life as a little boy in Oklahoma,” Mr. Dieckman told The Epoch Times. “The narrative in America at this point in time stands to say anything Native American is offensive and racist and needs to be erased or it has to disappear immediately.”

The embattled NFL team responded to a request for comment with a statement.

“We believe the complaint is without merit, and we will address the matter in court,” a Commanders spokesperson said.

Washington Redskins merchandise is seen for sale at a sports store in Fairfax, Va., on July 13, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

But Michael Lewis, a marketing professor who specializes in sports marketing and analytics at Emory University in Atlanta, believes renaming the Redskins has taken a toll on the unity that sports fandom historically created in American society.

“I suspect it leads to fracturing,” Mr. Lewis told The Epoch Times. “People might think sports names, mascots, and teams are minor, but when corrosive, overly political stuff enters the larger culture, it causes people to want to separate rather than unify.”

We’ll never stop this fight,” Mr. Dieckman said. “The strategy has always been to at least get a seat at the table and talk to the new ownership. We want to educate them on the term of what a Redskin is."

According to the complaint, the term Redskin is derived from a ceremony in which Native Americans would paint themselves with red dye from a Bloodroot plant before battle.

"It has nothing to do with ethnicity and everything to do with being an elite warrior," Mr. Dieckman added.

Formed in 1960, the NCAI is a 501(c)(4) corporation that defends and advocates for Native Americans; however, NAGA alleges that NCAI is not an official tribal organization and doesn’t speak for all Native Americans.

“Who gets to decide what is or is not offensive?” Mr. LaVeglia said. “The people do. That means all of them. Not just wealthy elites. Not the government. But the government and elites are controlling the narrative on a national scale. If a small group of elites can erase one culture’s history, then they can do it to others.”

The NCAI did not respond to requests for comment. Their reply brief is due on Dec. 1.

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) speaks about the "Change the Mascot" campaign during a press conference with Oneida Indian leaders on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 16, 2014. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Commanders’ employee Matthew Laux, who is accused of attacking NAGA members’ identity by telling a former luxury box owner that NAGA is a fake group, is also a defendant. He, too, did not respond to requests for comment.

"Harris and the Commanders favored one group of Native Americans over another—EQUAL—group of Native Americans,” the complaint further states. “Favoring one group of powerful Native Americans while literally attacking the identity of another is selective racism in action."

Although the Washington Redskins was previously a top 10 NFL brand out of 32 teams, the Washington Commanders is now at the bottom of the list, according to Mr. Lewis, who believes multiple name changes didn’t help its score.

“There was this slow degradation over time, but it's really accelerated downward since they started to change the names,” Mr. Lewis said. “Based on the data and on my reading of the situation, the name change is entirely a negative at this point, especially to the Commanders. Frankly, there's been some discussion about changing the name again."