Supreme Court Rejects Case Against Redskins Name

Dead end in 17-year-old battle against 'offensive' team name
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 16, 2009 10:31 AM CST
Washington Redskins runningback Ladell Betts celebrates his fourth-quarter touchdown during the NFL game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2009 in Landover, Md. Washington won 27-17.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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(Newser) – The Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from a group of Native Americans who've been trying for 17 years to get the Washington Redskins to change their name. The high court today turned away an appeal from Suzan Shown Harjo, ending the latest round between the Redskins and a group that finds the name offensive. Harjo and her fellow plaintiffs won an earlier round when the patent office canceled the Redskins trademarks in 1999, but that was overturned by a District Court ruling in 2003.

Since then it's bounced back and forth between the District Court and the Court of Appeals over whether the suit was filed too late—decades after the first Redskins trademark was issued in 1967. While the plaintiff was only 1 year old in 1967 and therefore could not have taken legal action at the time, the District Court judge argued that 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 it. (Read more Washington Redskins stories.)