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Suzan Harjo: Washington football team sinks to another low

Filed Under: Opinion | Sports
More on: code talkers, dc, football, mascots, navajo, racism, redskins, suzan shown harjo

Suzan Shown Harjo, the lead plaintiff in the original complaint against the trademarks of the Washington professional football team, discusses an "honoring" of Navajo Code Talkers during a game:
The Washington NFL team “honored” Navajo codetalkers during halftime of the San Francisco-Washington game (Washington lost, again, 27-6). The “honoring” is part of the franchise owner’s, Daniel Snyder’s, charm offensive that began when he hired Lanny Davis, the crisis whisperer who peddled the scenario that President Bill Clinton fell victim to the thong-snapping Monica Lewinsky and her stained blue dress.

The Red*kins’ “honoring” of Navajo codetalkers consisted of four frail veterans standing in the end zone and receiving a round of applause. Three of the four Navajo elders wore Red*kins jackets, with the new-clothes price tags still hanging at their wrists. These seniors probably thought this was another in a long line of recent recognitions of their WWII achievements some 70 years ago, rather than any implied endorsement of the team’s name.

But as soon as the Monday Night Football cameras picked up images of the veterans, a commentator began to remark on the split in Native American opinion about the team’s disparaging name.

In 21 years of litigation, the Washington franchise has not brought into court a single Native nation, organization or person to support its position. Since the three judges of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board heard the Blackhorse et al v. Pro Football, Inc., case in March of this year, the franchise tried to palm off a man from the DC Metropolitan area as an “Aleut chief” to show that some Native supports its position. Turns out that the guy had never been to Alaska, where the Aleuts are, and must not have spoken with any to know that they don’t even have chiefs.

Get the Story:
Suzan Shown Harjo: Red*kins 'Honor' Codetalkers—How Low Will They Go? (Indian Country Today 11/26)

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