North Dakota group files federal lawsuit against Washington Commanders

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Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 5:51 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - A North Dakota-based non-profit organization has filed a lawsuit against the Washington Commanders, the NFL team’s owner, the team’s senior manager and The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

According to the lawsuit, The Native American Guardian’s Association (NAGA) has started an online petition requesting that Washington Commanders owner Josh Harris change the team’s name back to the Washington Redskins. NAGA is a non-profit based in Devils Lake, ND.

The lawsuit lists accusations of defamation against Matthew Laux and the Commanders; civil conspiracy against Harris, the Commanders and NCAI; and conspiracy to violate civil rights against Harris, the Commanders and NCAI.

“NAGA’s members were huge Redskin fans precisely because they were the Redskins,” the lawsuit states. “It was the only team in the National Football League (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. They were honoring his courage as well as the bravery, strength, and fearlessness embedded in their history. That was until Josh Harris (Harris) erased him and had his employee defame NAGA to luxury ticket box owners.”

NAGA also claims that the National Congress of American Indians is working with Harris. They say NCAI is an organization “run by the powerful” and does not speak for Native Americans.

Commanders’ employee Matthew Laux is listed in the lawsuit, accused of defamation, after allegedly calling NAGA a fake group. “Reading between the lines, Laux was attacking the very identity of NAGA’s members. He was calling them “fake” Native Americans. He attacked their very souls. Laux took a page right from the Commanders playbook: selective racism,” the lawsuit states.

The Native American Guardian’s Association says their petition has received more than 132,000 signatures, but the Commanders have yet to respond. They say NCAI issued a news release celebrating the Commanders’ decision to keep the Commander name as “a victory for Native Americans everywhere.”

NAGA is seeking $400,000 in damages for the first count, $1,000,000 in damages for the second count and $200,000 in damages for the third count.