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The Washington Commanders are under fire from the Native Americans Guardians Association (NAGA) based in North Dakota, who have sued the Commanders for their recent name change in 2020 and accused them of defamation and conspiracy.

The lawsuit is against the new owner of the Commanders, Josh Harris, sales representative Matthew Laux and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), who NAGA claims conspired to change the name. NAGA also sued because of alleged defamatory comments that attacked the association’s integrity.

Chad LaVeglia is a representative for NAGA and said that the Commanders ignored NAGA’s demands to discuss the team name. The name change “ dishonored many years of Native American tradition and heritage,” LaVeglia said to NBC Montana news.

The old Redskins logo wasn’t a generic Native American face. It was the face of Chief John two guns White Calf of the Blackfoot Indian tribe. He was on the side of the Washington Redskins helmet for 48 years. Walter Blackie Wetzel, another Blackfoot member, led the movement to get him on the helmet in 1971. White Calf was well known across the country and in parts of the world, being vocal about U.S. policies and the mistreatment of Native Americans. He championed native issues in Washington, D.C., spending time with President Calvin Coolidge. He was also the inspiration for the face that appeared on the U.S. Mint’s famous 1913 Indian head nickel. He was also a famous spokesman for Glacier National Park in Montana. He was so famous in the United States that upon his death in 1934, he received an obituary in the New York Times.

In 2020, he was removed from the logo and the team changed their name because they were a subject of the massive cancel culture movement. The team executives received pressure from sponsors and fans because of the perceived racism with the logo and the team’s identity. Dan Snyder, the team owner during the name change, was against the name change but lost the battle because of intense pressure. “We’ll never change the name,” Snyder told USA Today in 2013.

Recently, there has been a surge to protect and bring back the image of White Calf and what he represents. Red Mesa High School in Arizona still uses its Redskin mascot and recently installed a new football field with the White Calf Redskins logo. The student body at Red Mesa is almost entirely Native American.

Students in Wellpinit High School in Washington State voted to keep their Redskins mascot in March 2023, rejecting efforts to erase it. Activists in Sandusky, Michigan, are leading grassroots efforts to bring back their Redskins identity and the White Calf logo at the local high school, which in 2021 was changed to the Wolves. Voters in Sandusky recently recalled board members who voted to eliminate the Redskin identity. They’ve since elected three new pro-Native American school board members, who have campaigned to bring the Redskins back to Sandusky High School.Dan Quinn to become Commanders head coach, per report - Big Blue View

Representatives from NAGA were at town hall meetings on the controversial change in Sandusky, advocating that the change isn’t necessary and that the term Redskin isn’t racist. Billy Dieckman, one of the representatives, addressed the board “The term Redskin is a very honorable term to me, I’m a Redskin. I’m a Redskin warrior and I’ve proved myself in battle. Now, I’m willing to fight these kinds of battles, even though it’s a different kind of battle because what is right, and how you’ve been treated is not right,” Dieckman said, as the Sanilac County news reported.

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