A Native American group, the Native American Guardian’s Association (NAGA), has filed a lawsuit against the Washington Commanders of the National Football League (NFL) over accusations of defamation. The lawsuit alleges that the Commanders have delegitimized NAGA and its efforts to restore the team’s previous name, the “Redskins.”
The suit was filed in the North Dakota Federal Court on behalf of NAGA against the Commanders and key leadership. It claims that the franchise has made a “coordinated and willful effort” to defame NAGA by labeling it as “fake.”
NAGA had previously issued a demand letter to the Commanders along with a Change.org petition calling for the team’s name to be restored to “Redskins,” arguing that the name holds historical significance and is not seen as derogatory or offensive by most Native Americans.
NAGA’s attorney, Chad LaVeglia, stated that the Commanders’ alleged attempts to defame NAGA met the legal requirements of defamation. He added that NAGA is a legitimate entity and that the Commanders’ alleged intent to slander them is actionable.
The lawsuit suggests that the Commanders are trying to erase Native American history, with NAGA viewing the former team name as a sign of respect towards its community. It also accuses the new owner of the Commanders, Josh Harris, of being responsible for this erasure. According to the lawsuit, a Commanders employee defamed NAGA by calling it a “fake” group in conversation with a former luxury box owner.
NAGA also accuses Harris of working with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) to overshadow the results of its online petition, which had garnered over 132,600 signatures at the time of reporting.
In response to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for the Commanders told Newsweek that they believe the complaint is without merit and will address the matter in court.
NAGA President Eunice Davidson stated that the lawsuit is “a line-in-the-sand moment,” and that NAGA will continue to fight against cancel culture to preserve Native American’s historic place in America.