Statement of Suzan Shown Harjo on the Retirement of the Washington Football Team’s Racist Name

July 13, 2020

Susan Shown Harjo
Susan Shown Harjo

Today, Suzan Shown Harjo issued the following statement. The WCL IP Clinic is proud to have represented Harjo in various aspects of the controversy surrounding the Washington football team’s trademarks.    

“Poor Daniel Snyder has nothing left to do but this slow strip tease. He had to satisfy: First, his FedEx and other managerial and promotion partners. Second his merch partners. Third, the franchise’s 40% owners. 
“This day is brought about by Native Peoples and our BIPOC partners moving the country toward racial and social justice. And by the longevity and persistence of our no-mascot movement, which began in earnest for me when Clyde Warrior (great Ponca fancy dancer and Oklahoma youth organizer) visited my senior high school class in OKC in 1962, and informed and energized us about “Little Red” at the University of Oklahoma and the “worst one of all, right there in the nation’s Capitol,” R*dsk*ns.”  Clyde lived to co-found the National Indian Youth Council and to forge coalitions with other students of color and women at OU, but he didn’t live long enough to see OU retire “Little Red,” which became the first “Indian” reference to be eliminated (in 1970) from the entire landscape of American sports (Stanford 1972, Dartmouth 1974, and Syracuse 1979.  
“This day of the retirement of the R*dsk*ns slur and stereotypical logo belongs to all those Native families (including mine and that of Amanda Blackhorse, my sister target number one), who bore the brunt of and carry the scars from the epithets, beatings, death threats and other emotional and physical brutalities resulting from all the “Native” sports names and images that cause harm and injury to actual Native people. It does not belong to a change of heart by the team’s energy or to this who are bandwagoning and in line to cash in on our hard-fought and hard-won success. We’ve ended more than two-thirds of these obscenities and now have only 900 or so left to go, but the fall of this king of the mountain of trash will help others to give up their ghosts of racism even faster, so, Aho, Mr. Snyder and thank you, Mvto, Mr. Fred Smith.” 

  • Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee), recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom), writer, curator and policy advocate, who has helped Native Peoples recover sacred places and more than one million acres of land. President, The Morning Star Institute, and Lead Plaintiff and organizer, Harjo et al v. Pro Football, Inc. (1992-2009), and organizer and expert witness of the identical lawsuit brought by Native young people, Blackhorse et al v. Pro Football, Inc. (filed 2006, active 2020-2017).

WCL IP Clinic Representation of Susan Shown Harjo


Under the supervision of Prof. Victoria Phillips, the WCL IP Clinic has represented Harjo in aspects of the IP controversy surrounding the team’s disparaging trademark. Harjo was also the keynote speaker at the clinic’s first reunion. Phillips recently noted, “I first got involved in this issue as a trademark matter.  As I learned more and worked with Suzan, I got invested in it as a civil rights cause.  Sadly, most Americans don’t know a Native person so what they learn and believe about them is from the dehumanizing imagery peddled by professional, college and high school sports teams. The harmful stereotypes perpetuated by these racial slurs and imagery have a well-documented negative impact on the Native community -- especially children.”

Professor Phillips and Professor Christine Haight Farley co-authored an amicus brief filed on behalf of intellectual property professors and Indian law professors in the Supreme Court in the Harjo case urging the Court to hear the appeal. Their brief argued that harm to the public should be taken into account in considering the delay in bringing suit.