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Washington Commanders ‘fitting name for oppressors’ Native American group claims in new federal lawsuit

Washington Commanders ‘fitting name for oppressors’ Native American group claims in new federal lawsuit
  • PublishedSeptember 25, 2023

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A Native American group filed a lawsuit against the Washington Commanders in federal court this morning that upends a long-standing cancel-culture narrative about racism in sports.

The Native American Guardians Association (NAGA) accuses the the NFL franchise and new owner Josh Harris of defamation, civil conspiracy and civil right violations for their role in suppressing Native American history, in a complaint filed in the United States District Court of North Dakota

NAGA led a viral petition this summer demanding that the organization reclaim its traditional Redskins identity. It generated 150,000 signatures. 

NATIVE AMERICAN GROUP THAT WANTED ‘REDSKINS’ REMOVAL IS FUNDED BY SOROS FOUNDATION, OTHER LEFTIST ORGS

“Commanders is a fitting name for oppressors,” the suit stated. 

The group seeks $1.6 million in damages and “a seat at the table to share Native American history,” plaintiff attorney Chad LaVeglia told Fox News Digital. 

Josh Harris at Commanders-Browns

Washington Commanders managing partner Josh Harris looks on prior to a preseason game against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Aug. 11, 2023 in Cleveland. (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

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

The complaint also names the powerful National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) for its role in erasing from public discussion the image and history of real Native Americans. The suit claims that the NCAI contributes to a legacy of cultural oppression suffered by indigenous peoples. 

“This lawsuit is a f— you to the NCAI and a f— you to the Commanders and to cancel culture.”

— Plaintiff attorney Chad LaVeglia

“The name ‘Redskins’ carries deep cultural, historical, and emotional significance, honoring the bravery, resilience, and warrior spirit associated with Native American culture,” the NAGA complaint states.

The Redskins were, it adds, “the only team in the National Football League (NFL) to honor an actual Native American.”

Redskins logo

Blackfoot Chief John Two Guns White Calf, left, who served as the inspiration for the Washington Redskins logo, which represented the NFL franchise on the field form 1972 to 2020. (Getty Images)

Central to the NAGA argument is that the Redskins name and logo were inspired by real historic tribal leaders who played influential roles in American history and that this factual narrative was obliterated by the NCAI.

The franchise adopted the name Redskins in 1933 and, since 1972, the team logo was a portrait of celebrated late Blackfoot Chief John Two Guns White Calf. 

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Among other contributions to Native American history, White Calf forced the federal government to recognize and honor Blackfoot tribal claims. 

The team’s original name and logo were inspired by 17th-century Lenni Lenape Chief Tammany, celebrated by colonial troops who fought the American Revolution as “the Patron Saint of America.”

The Washington franchise, under then-owner Dan Snyder, bowed to public pressure fueled by the NCAI and canceled the Redskins name and its portrait logo of White Calf.

Members of NAGA

Members of the Native American Guardians Association, which launched a petition in June 2023 demanding the NFL’s Washington Commanders reclaim their historic Redskins name and imagery. (Courtesy Native American Guardians Association)

The NCAI is funded by federal taxpayer dollars and counts among its benefactors George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, Fox News Digital reported earlier this month. 

The Chief White Calf Redskins logo was designed in 1972 by Blackfoot tribal leader Walter “Blackie” Wetzel, with widespread input and support from Native American communities.  

NATIVE AMERICAN GROUP CALLS ON COMMANDERS TO RENAME TEAM REDSKINS: ‘CANNOT ERASE HISTORY’

Wetzel was the president of the NCAI from 1961 to 1964.

The NCAI in later years spent decades whipping up opposition to the logo designed by its former president. 

Gettysburg Monument

The image of Lenni Lenape Chief Tammany adorns a battlefield monument at Gettysburg where the 42nd New York Volunteers fought bravely during the Civil War. Tammany’s image inspired the original logo of the Washington Redskins when they were founded as the Boston Braves in 1932. (Library of Congress/public domain)

It issued an incendiary report in 2013 that claimed Native American images, such as the Redskins Chief White Calf logo, fueled low self-esteem, suicides and racial violence in Native American communities. 

The report, NAGA notes, failed to mention the Native Americans, Tammany and White Calf, who inspired the Redskins name and imagery. 

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“NCAI is on a mission to eradicate Native American history. The more teams that ignorantly bend, the more power NCAI retains,” the complaint states.

“The powerful few, do not get to have a monopoly on the narrative. They cannot eradicate Native American history from the hearts and minds of Americans.”

Red Mesa Redskins

The digital display sign bearing the Redskins logo is seen outside Red Mesa High School on a Najavjo reservation in Red Mesa, Arizona. Red Mesa is one of several Native-majority high schools in the United States that have rejected calls to give its Redskins identity. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The NAGA complaint portrays Washington Commanders new “billionaire owner” Harris as the heir to the legacy of oppression suffered by indigenous peoples at the hands of European settlers. 

“The Redskins (were) the only team in the National Football League (NFL) to honor an actual Native American.”

— Native American Guardians Association

“Mr. Harris’s money and power rival the European countries that laid claim to this land hundreds of years ago. Like the men who conquered Native Americans, Josh Harris is erasing their history.”

“This lawsuit is a f— you to the NCAI and a f— you to the Commanders and to cancel culture,” said plaintiff attorney LaVeglia. 

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“You’re not a monarchy. You don’t have absolute power and you’re not going to stomp the little guy.”

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