In what some perceive as a move to reignite the debate over the Washington Commanders' name change, a recent lawsuit against the team has sparked fresh controversy. However, it's crucial to clarify that this legal action alone cannot compel a name change.
The Commanders are now facing a defamation lawsuit filed by the Native American Guardian’s Association, as reported by Newsweek.com. This legal challenge stems from allegations that a Commanders employee disparaged the group by referring to it as "fake" during a conversation with a former luxury suite owner at FedEx Field.
A Commanders spokesperson has responded by stating, "We believe the complaint is without merit, and we will address the matter in court," according to Newsweek.com.
The lawsuit contends that the Commanders collaborated with the National Congress of American Indians to retire the former team name and prevent its reinstatement.
"As the self-proclaimed voice of Native Americans everywhere, NCAI and the Commanders did more than attack NAGA’s integrity; they silenced over 90 percent of Native Americans who disagree with them," the lawsuit alleges. "They also silenced Americans."
This entire legal ordeal can be traced back to a pivotal moment when members of the new ownership group, including majority owner Josh Harris and limited partner Magic Johnson, casually mentioned the former name on July 22, the day the sale from Daniel Snyder was finalized. This offhand reference to the old name led to speculation that the new ownership might be testing the waters for a potential return of the discarded name. It also emboldened proponents of the former name to renew their efforts to reinstate it.
Over time, the language surrounding the former name evolved to the point where it was widely recognized as a derogatory term. After years of resistance, Daniel Snyder eventually yielded to immense pressure from sponsors and agreed to the name change. Whether the current ownership group will succumb to similar pressure and revert to the old name remains uncertain.
As of now, such a change appears highly unlikely. However, if public pressure mounts in the future, the new ownership group, led by Josh Harris, may find themselves facing the consequences of opening Pandora's box. Had they refrained from mentioning the name during the celebratory moments following Snyder's departure, this contentious issue might never have resurfaced.
It's important to note that the Commanders are under new ownership, and they are eager to establish themselves as a championship-caliber team. Having weathered significant public scrutiny under their previous ownership, they are striving to set the right tone under new leadership and get their season off to a strong start. The ongoing controversy surrounding the team's name adds a layer of complexity to their efforts to reshape the franchise's image.