More than three years after shedding their former nickname, the Washington Commanders are still facing legal hurdles in connection with it.
The Native American Guardian’s Association — a nonprofit organization aimed at advancing cultural and ethnic awareness — has filed a defamation lawsuit against the team in U.S. District Court in North Dakota, claiming a “coordinated and willful effort” by the team to defame and delegitimize the organization both verbally and in writing.
NAGA previously started a Change.org petition seeking to restore the Redskins name — partly a response to what it perceived as cancel culture — that gained more than 132,000 signatures.
The group is seeking $1.6 million in monetary damages. A key part of the lawsuit stems from a prior comment by Commanders sales manager Matthew Laux, who allegedly said in a text message that NAGA was “fake.” The lawsuit names the Commanders, Laux, team owner Josh Harris, and the National Congress of American Indians as defendants.
“NAGA’s members were huge Redskin fans precisely because they were the Redskins,” the lawsuit reads in part. “It was the only team in the NFL to honor an actual Native American. They were proud to watch professional football players engage in a different kind of battle, with the stoic face of Chief White Calf on their helmets.”
The Commanders said they “believe the complaint is without merit, and we will address the matter in court.”
Despite a home drubbing on Sunday to Buffalo, the Commanders remain in the midst of an organizational renaissance under Harris, with a wide range of commercial possibilities and potential facilities open to the franchise.