American Indians New Generation Challenges The Redskins

It’s been years that American Indians’ve protested NFL Washington franchise’s mascot name, and new generation has now taken up this fight

Story Highlights

  • Navajo woman, Amanda Blackhorse, is plaintiff in one suit that is against the Washington franchise of NFL
  • Dan Snyder, the franchise owner, says that the team would NEVER change the name of its mascot
  • Objectionable names of mascots are dropped by many colleges, but the pro teams’ve been much less willing

WASHINGTON -Amanda Blackhorse hasn’t ever come across Daniel Snyder, though she has thought over what she intends to say him once she meets him.

She said that she would ask him if he could call her a redskin right in front of her and at the same time, she also suspects that he wouldn’t.

Another Navajo is Blackhorse who is social worker, a psychiatric one, and plaintiff named in Pro- Football Inc. v. Blackhorse and others, the federal suit with the group of five American Indians seeking to take away the rights of federal trademark from the team of football that is owned by Snyder.

Blackhorse along with fellow petitioners think the redskins happen to be racial slur; also franchise of National League of Football that is in Washington and has used it for quite a long time shouldn’t have the protection at federal level for such a trademark which expresses negativity. According to team attorneys, the name’s supposed to honour the American Indians and not alienate them. USA TODAY was told by Snyder that the name wouldn’t ever be changed.

The well-know arguments are basically same like that in Pro-Football Inc. v. Harjo and others, the trademark suit which was filed back in 1992  and which stayed in courts for about seventeen years. Six petitioners along with Suzan Shown won this case before trademark board back in 1999 though lost on the appeal, majorly on some technical argument.

So Harjo, who’s Muscogee and Cheyenne, sought plaintiffs that were younger to continue the fight onward. She found 6, some even at the age of 18 when second suit got filed in the year 2006. Then, Blackhorse, at the age of 24, was oldest of all.

Harjo says that other side thinks she recruited Blackhorse, and they are absolutely correct when they say that because she did recruit her and all the others as well. She said that everyone recruits, including NFL franchises, army, schools and businesses.

This happens to be story of the two women, an elder one and the other younger, who are having a row on the same point. Aged 31, Blackhorse, works at the State Hospital in Arizona and has planned to move to Navajo reservation next month where she had grown up to become social worker. The advocate of Indian rights and the president of Washington-based Institute Morning Star, Hajro is going to be 68 in the coming month. She is also writer, grandmother, lecturer and poet.

Each one is named plaintiff regarding the legal cases that are against a very prominent franchise in the most famous sports league of nation. Each has willingness to rise for what is right, though that makes them target of ridicule by public.

It feels she’s passing torch to new generation yet she says it is not so.

Laughingly, she says that it is really so white. She adds that traditionally they happen to be tribal societies and their leaders tend to be the adults and elders and that this is not put on the children or grandchildren who have other functions to serve.

In March, Blackhorse appeared before Trademark Trial as well as Appeal Board that’s part of Trademark Office and US Patent. A ruling can come any time and it could be many months away. Without considering how it got decided, the appeals are evident, and this case could continue on for many years, like it did when it was first time.

Harjo’s eye caught something in language of some court rulings that got issued during first case.

She says that what it actually said was interesting: Native Americans will presumably be born always and some will think of the name as objectionable. She also asks if laches seems against them.

It is a term that is legal for an argument which Harjo and fellow plaintiffs with her waited a long time to act. Work was begun by Harjo for organizing a 2nd case with plaintiffs that were younger, in 2005, much prior to her case that officially finished in 2009, the time when Supreme Court refused to review this case.

The issue regarding Indian mascots when it comes to sports, is around for many decades. Many teams of high schools and colleges in hundreds have changed the names of their teams over years, but the professional teams seemed less willing in changing that. Being brought up in Arizona, Blackhorse did not think a lot about it.

She says that she didn’t grow up having much exposure to world and lived in the little world on the reservation of Navajo.

She was student at Kansas University in year 2005, the time she got into a group No- in-Our-Honor which planned in protesting Indian nicknames out of the Kansas City Arrowhead Stadium facing the game between Washington team and the Chiefs that year on October 16.

According to Blackhorse, they assembled peacefully carrying signs and flags for tribes represented by them, to show they were proud people as well as diverse, from other different tribes. She said that they had to show they were human beings and not mascots.

Many fans walking towards the stadium didn’t really care for the message. The fans yelled at them about going back to their reservation and that they were alcoholics, along with many other profanities.

Blackhorse started off the day being student protestor but by the end of the day, she felt like she was going to be an activist forever.

She said that she got the chance to see how their culture was ridiculed and also witness them throwing beer at them. This made her worry about her safety.

It was by chance this protest came at a time Hajro was searching for plaintiffs in youth. One recruiting call Hajro made was for Rhonda LeValdo, who’s Acoma Pueblo, also the one who helped to organize protest. LeValdo, the president of Native American Journalists Association now, passed along the name of Blackhorse to Hajro.

Hajro commented that she talked to Amanda who was simply marvelous.

But this wasn’t simple as this. First, Blackhorse was advised by Hajro that she should not sign if she could have her feelings be hurt easily, since she’d most probably be totally vilified by the football fans as well as others on the talk radio, along with comments sections in news stories online.

Hajro says that she took it as her duty and talked to her  and all other petitioners seriously about things theycould encounter even when they wouldn’t have any fault.

Blackhorse did sign on. According to her, she had to owe it to elders who had started this case and also future generations that included her daughter, being 2 years old at that time. Now Blackhorse has daughters aged 6 and 10.

She says that there posed the chance to have the world free of the derogatory name, which is also racist name which shouldn’t be utilized or trademarked.

In 1999, year in which trademark board ruled originally while opposing his team, Daniel Snyder purchased the football team of Washington which was pro.

Though his team loses the trademark protection over the go-round, it’d not be necessary to have its name changed. But the trademark that belongs to it wouldn’t enjoy federal protection any longer which prevents the others from putting on team logos at merchandise that’s unofficial, and which could cost him much money.

Snyder often doesn’t speak about this case publicly. He talked regarding it quite quickly in this week, followed by an interview of Tanya, his wife, and him about her being selected as the mother of year by Society of American Cancer.

Snyder also said that they would not change team’s name ever and that they happen to be lifelong fans of Redskins and feel very lucky to be working on the season that is coming up next.

But what would happen if the team that belongs to him loses trademark case? Is it that he would not consider to change the name then too?

Snyder strictly says they are never going to change it.

What about the question that Blackhorse had wanted him to answer if she did meet him? Is it that Snyder would dare call Blackhorse redskin right at her face?

Snyder said that the most suitable way is not to comment on such stuff at all and also that she doesn’t know her.

According to Blackhorse, she’s not shocked about Snyder’s answer.

She said that if it happened to be appropriate to refer to her like that, he would comment and it must be very uncomfortable for him to say anything about it. She further says he is right when he says he does not know her people or herself because if he knew, he’d never have used that name.

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