If the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to cancel the trademark of the Washington Redskins stands, Amanda Blackhorse will deserve a large part of the credit.
Blackhorse, a Navajo and psychiatric social worker, is the named plaintiff in the case known as Blackhorse et al v. Pro-Football Inc., the lawsuit filed by five Native Americans. In a USA Today profile this spring, Blackhorse said she considered what she might say to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder if she ever meets him.
“I’d ask him, ‘Would you dare call me a redskin, right here, to my face?’ ” she says. “And I suspect that, no, he would not do that.”
The Blackhorse plaintiffs made essentially the same argument as those who filed the Harjo et al v. Pro-Football Inc. trademark suit in 1992. It was tied up in litigation for 17 years after Suzan Shown Harjo and six petitioners won a decision from the trademark board in 1999, then saw it overturned on appeal on the basis that they had waited too long to assert their rights. From USA Today’s Erik Brady:
And so Harjo, who is Cheyenne and Muscogee, sought younger plaintiffs to carry the fight forward. She found six, some as young as 18 when the second suit was filed, in 2006 (one of them later dropped out). Blackhorse, then 24, was the oldest.
“The other side says I recruited her,” Harjo says. “Of course I recruited her. I recruited them all. They really must think we’re stupid or inept. Everyone recruits. NFL franchises recruit. The Army recruits. Schools recruit. Businesses recruit. It just doesn’t make any sense that we wouldn’t do that.”
This is the story of two women — one younger, one older — who are fighting the same fight. Blackhorse, 31, works at Arizona State Hospital and next month plans to move back to the Navajo reservation where she grew up to be a social worker. Harjo, 68 next month, is an Indian rights advocate and president of the Washington-based Morning Star Institute, though such shorthand leaves out many of her other titles, including poet, writer, lecturer and grandmother.
More on the Redskins trademarks: