By JESSE J. HOLLAND
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal from a
group of Native Americans who think the name of the NFL’s
Washington Redskins football team is offensive.
The high court on Monday turned away an appeal from Suzan Shown
Harjo. That ends the latest round in the 17-year court battle
between the Redskins and a group of American Indians who want
them to change their name.
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 the ruling in 2003 in part because the
suit was filed decades after the first Redskins trademark was
issued in 1967.
The U.S. Court of Appeals 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 Court of
Appeals upheld that decision in May, and the Supreme Court now
has refused to review that decision.
This doesn’t 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.
The case is Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc., 09-326.