WASHINGTON The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from a group of Native Americans who think the name of the Washington Redskins professional football team is offensive.
The high court today turned away the case, Harjo, et al. v. Pro Football Inc. That ends the latest round in the 17-year court battle between the Redskins and a group of American Indians who want the team to change its name.
Suzan Shown Harjo and her fellow plaintiffs have been working since 1992 to have the Redskins trademarks declared invalid. They initially won the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office panel canceled the trademarks in 1999. But U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly overturned that ruling in 2003 in part because the suit was filed decades after the first Redskins trademark was issued in 1967.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia then sent the case back to Kollar-Kotelly, noting that the youngest of the plaintiffs was only 1 year old in 1967 and therefore could not have taken legal action at the time.
But Kollar-Kotelly rejected that argument, saying the youngest plaintiff turned 18 in 1984 and therefore “waited almost eight years” after coming of age to join the lawsuit. The D.C. Circuit upheld that decision in May, and the Supreme Court now has refused to review that decision.
This does not end the legal battle, however. The plaintiffs have a backup plan: A group of six American Indians ranging in age from 18 to 24 filed essentially the same claim two years ago, but the new case has been on hold until this one was resolved.
None of the judges has commented on whether the Redskins name is offensive or racist, instead holding in favor of the football team on legal technicalities.