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Native American Group Plans Federal Lawsuit Against Cleveland Indians Logo, Team Name

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A Native American group is planning to file a federal lawsuit against the “offensive” Cleveland Indians logo, Chief Wahoo. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

A Native American group is planning to file a federal lawsuit against the “offensive” Cleveland Indians logo, Chief Wahoo. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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Cleveland, Ohio (CBS CLEVELAND) – A Native American group is planning to file a federal lawsuit against the “offensive” Cleveland Indians logo, Chief Wahoo.

Robert Roche, a Chiricahua Apache and director of the American Indian Education Center, is planning to file a federal lawsuit in late July against the Cleveland Indians organization. Roche, who is also the leader of the group People Not Mascots, says the lawsuit will challenge that the team’s name and Chief Wahoo logo are racist.

“We’re going to be asking for $9 billion and we’re basing it on a hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation and profiteering,” Roche told WEWS-TV. “It’s been offensive since day one. We are not mascots. My children are not mascots. We are people.”

Last Wednesday, a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office stripped the Washington Redskins organization of its trademark and labeled the team name as a “racial slur.” Although the Redskins said it will appeal the ruling, People Not Mascots is looking to apply similar action against the Indians.

The Redskins won an appeal that challenged a similar trademark ruling in 1999: “We’ve seen this story before. And just like last time, today’s ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo,” Bob Raskopf, the team’s trademark lawyer, tells NBC News.

In Cleveland, local supporters of the Indians team say it is just a tiny minority of people who are against the team name and logo.

“If just a small amount of people are against it, than I think you’re doing a disservice to people that like it,” Bob Rosen, president of the Wahoo Club, tells WEWS. He added that thousands of Indians fans embrace Chief Wahoo as a loyal and friendly symbol.

“I’m not insensitive to the issue, but our 1,650 members of the Wahoo Club, anytime we have a Wahoo Club item they but it up they love it,” Rosen said. “Can you imagine the baseball team in this city not being called the Cleveland Indians? I can’t picture that.”

Mounting pressure against the Redskins was joined by Native American groups, President Barack Obama, the United Church of Christ and 50 of 55 Democrats in the U.S. Senate who recent sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, demanding that he change the team’s name, they labeled a “racial slur.”

Benjamin Fearnow

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