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Change the Mascot campaign responds to negative Supreme Court decision

The leaders of the Change the Mascot movement continue to call on the Washington NFL team to eliminate its “hateful and degrading” name after the nation's highest court issued a damaging decision.

Jackie Pata, the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, and Ray Halbritter, the representative of the Oneida Nation, called Monday's ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court “disappointing.” But they said the fight to change the team's name is far from over.

“This is an issue we have always believed will not be solved in a courtroom, and this ruling does not change some very clear facts,” Pata and Halbritter said in a statement. “Washington's football team promotes, markets and profits from the use of a word that is not merely offensive – it is a dictionary-defined racial slur designed from the beginning to promote hatred and bigotry against Native Americans.”

Nearly every major inter-tribal organization, along with dozens of tribes, have been calling on the team to change its mascot for decades. But current and prior owners have steadfastly refused, calling the name and its associated imagery an honor to Native peoples.

Tribal activists have put pressure on the team as well by going after its trademarks. But Monday's ruling on the constitutionality of a key federal law threatens the future of an ongoing challenge, known as puts Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc..

“Native people have won public opinion with regard to ending racist Native mascots,” lead petitioner Amanda Blackhorse, who is a citizen of the Navajo Nation, wrote in a post on Twitter on Monday. “My heart is not on the ground. My heart is strong.”

The decision in Matal v. Tam, in which a critical provision on the Lanham Act was struck down, will allow the team to register a “racist” trademark, she added.

Blackhorse and her fellow petitioners, all young tribal citizens, utilized the Lanham Act to prevent the registration of symbols that are disparaging to Native peoples. But with the provision now deemed unconstitutional, the team has won on a key issue even before an appeal was even heard by a lower court.

The team's current owner, Dan Snyder, has defended the name but also has sought to sway public opinion with the establishment of the Original Americans Foundation. He has financed projects, events and ventures throughout Indian Country, all while promoting the mascot, especially to youth.

U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Matal v. Tam:
Syllabus | Opinion [Alito] | Concurrence [Kennedy] | Concurrence [Thomas]

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