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Navajo Nation Files Court Brief Supporting Redskins Trademark Cancellation

Ron Jackson/Indian Country Today Media Network

The Navajo Nation has filed a brief affirming its opposition to the name of Washington's NFL team, the Redskins. Last year, a federal judge cancelled the team's trademark to the name, which many Native Americans consider derogatory. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, at least one Navajo tribal member is a plaintiff in the ongoing case.

The Navajo Nation says the mental health and well-being of its people would be at stake if Pro Football, Incorporated were to retain the trademark and continue using the name.

Navajo Nation president Russell Begaye says it was important for the tribe to speak out.

“We want to say to the world out there, don’t use designations that are degrading. Our people are a proud nation and to be singled out and degraded this way, we just had to be a part of that,” Begaye says.

The Navajo Nation Council, the tribe’s Human Rights Commission, and the Diné Medicine Men’s Association also oppose the use of the name.

The team’s owner Daniel Snyder, however, has said he won’t ever change the name. He argues the court’s decision infringes on his First Amendment rights and hurts business.

The trademark cancellation wouldn’t go into effect until the team has exhausted the federal appeals process.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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