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A Native American designed the Washington logo. Now his family wants him back | Washington

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Don Wetzel traveled to the U.S. capital from Montana last month to meet with politicians and attend a home game for the Washington football team. As he moved through the crowd outside FedEx Field, he couldn’t help but notice that more than half of the fans were wearing something with the old team logo on it.

This logo, the profile of a Native American with a circle of life and two eagle feathers, was particularly familiar to Don Wetzel because his late father, Walter S “Blackie” Wetzel, designed it ago. 50 years old, then gave it to Jack Kent Cooke, the owner of the team. The logo remained on Washington helmets until last year, when the team’s racist nickname was dropped.

“He called [the logo] its finest leader, ”Don Wetzel told The Guardian.

Blackie Wetzel was a president of the Blackfeet tribe and, for a time, the president of the National Congress of American Indians, an influential post in which he strived to secure housing and vocational training for Native Americans.

The logo was a composite of portraits of a Blackfeet chief named White Calf (which was marketed to wealthy tourists in Glacier National Park as Two Guns White Calf). Blackie saw the logo as a kind of “unifying symbol” among Native Americans.

“But with the logo gone, it’s a bit gone too,” says Wetzel.

So Wetzel, who is 73 years old and uses a prosthetic leg, headed east to ask for the logo to be returned to the team. It is not clear whether Washington owns the copyright to the logo. Wetzel wanted to make sure he could reuse the logo to become the face of the Blackie Wetzel Warrior Society, which hopes to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women and other social inequalities on reserves.

“We are going to be able to raise other big issues in the Indian country,” Wetzel said.

He and his caregiver, Marie Schell, said they briefly met the team leaders, but “they kept interrupting us.” He got angry and the meeting ended with no agreement being reached. He hasn’t heard from the team, but he’s not surprised. A 2016 meeting with the team about the logo also came to naught. Washington is believed to be keen to come to an agreement with the family, but such a settlement will take time.

Nonetheless, when asked to rate his chances of getting the logo back, Wetzel said, “I think they’re good because it’s a social injustice issue,” adding: ” It’s more of a moral battle than a legal battle. “

As with many stories that include some sort of folklore, the history of the logo has a lot of gray areas. On the one hand, contrary to popular belief, says Wetzel, the logo was not a copy of the profile found on an old nickel Buffalo.

In addition, the logo has barely disappeared. The Washington football team does not sell any merchandise on the NFL Shop website with the old logo, but an informal eBay search reveals hundreds of such items, most of which are labeled with the old logo. team nickname.

Wetzel says his father, who died in 2003 at the age of 88, was never bothered by the team’s nickname itself, as it was considered for many years to be something that greeted Native Americans. . Besides, Blackie loved the team. The logo was his focal point: he thought an accurate portrait was more evocative than the “R” logo then on the team’s helmets.

Much to the surprise of the Wetzel family, who received no warning from the team, the new logo appeared on Washington helmets in 1972. All the family says they received in return was merchandise. The logo remained with Washington for 48 seasons, which included the franchise’s glory years, a decade that included three Super Bowl wins. Since Dan Snyder became the owner in 1999, the team have only made the playoffs six times, winning two playoff games.

The team’s old nickname was a latent controversy for most of the half-century that the logo was stuck on the team’s helmets, but a change suddenly appeared imminent in 2014, when the United States Office of Patents and Trademarks removed the team of six trademark registrations because the nickname was derogatory to a “substantial” number of Native Americans.

According to a July 2014 article in the Washington Post, Don Wetzel was invited by the team to his Virginia offices and showed him a statue of the logo which he said was usually in Snyder’s office. An inscription says Blackie Wetzel will forever be a part of the team’s family, “because of his work to put this logo on the helmets.”

Don was touched. But he said the team had “kind of blocked” us when he asked if the family could get the logo back for the benefit of the Native Americans. In 2016, three years before he was fired as club president, Bruce Allen promised the Wetzels to engage Snyder about the logo, but Don said, “Nothing ever came of that either.”

The family were honored at FedEx Field in 2018, but now Wetzel says, “I think they’re trying to erase Blackie from the logo. I really believe it.

He got help from Tom Lang, a former Rutgers quarterback and tight end. Lang learned of the logo’s history from Wetzel, an outstanding former basketball player and coach, after Lang moved into a house across the street in Helena earlier this year and they started to talk about sport. Wetzel’s latest push has yet to gain media popularity outside of Montana.

“It’s time to bring him to the east coast,” Lang told The Guardian.

Lang considers it tragic that, at the end of the day, the Washington football team is not so much a ‘family’ as it is a business, but he says, ‘My optimism is that people are learning about it. ‘story.”

Lang adds, “This is a big vision, and it will need a lot of people and financial support to make it happen. But communities here in Montana need that kind of support, and the time is right. Don sees the logo as the driving force behind the realization of this vision.

Wetzel was able to meet Steve Daines, the Republican US senator from Montana in Washington, and tell him about his logo project. If the Wetzels ever get the logo back, Don plans to share it with the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well.

Washington won the game he attended last month, but the stadium was only a little more than half full and, as Wetzel says, “I didn’t feel the atmosphere. When I went back in 2016 the crowd was in it. I don’t think they have an identity yet.

Just because Blackie Wetzel’s logo won’t be part of whatever new identity it is, her son hasn’t stopped his crusade. In fact, Wetzel is even more determined to get it, and not just for the logo. “I want respect and honor to go to Blackie and her family,” he says.