WASHINGTON - 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 NFL franchise and new owner Josh Harris of defamation, civil conspiracy and civil rights 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.
"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.
"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.
"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."
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.
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 in 2020, 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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
"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.
"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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