TIME Sports

Michael Sam’s March to NFL History Derailed—But Only For Now

Michael Sam
Michael Sam on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Miami Dolphins, Aug. 28, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Fla. Lynne Sladky—AP

Michael Sam the NFL player may not have a jersey right now, but he isn’t going anywhere

The Rams cut openly gay rookie defensive end Michael Sam on Saturday, minutes before the NFL’s mandated roster deadline. The news sent shockwaves through the NFL and the LGBT community Saturday afternoon, his march to history seemingly derailed.

Yet for Sam, his journey continues. This is just a hiccup for the man who was the first openly gay man drafted by the NFL, the first openly gay man to play in an NFL preseason game, and who will be the first openly gay man to play in a regular-season NFL game.

Michael Sam the NFL player may not have a jersey right now, but he isn’t going anywhere.

The road to that final piece of immortality is simply a little bumpier now. Sam will have to be signed by another team in the next 24 hours, or he’ll most certainly end up on the Rams’ practice squad. From there, he would continue to work with the staff that drafted him in May, honing his skills and proving his worth on the football field. He would then wait week-to-week as other NFL teams considered picking him up or until the Rams activated him for a game.

The journey isn’t over, it just took a left turn.

Sam was born to be this man. Growing up in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood he survived tragedy after tragedy as a child, surrounded by drug dealers and coping with the loss of three siblings. His father abandoned the family during his youth. His mother, a Jehovah’s Witness, barred Sam from playing football when he was younger.

His mother banning him from football didn’t take, and neither will this.

Since coming out publicly, Sam has continued to endure. His NFL Draft stock fell in May in part — many including myself believe — because he is openly gay. He endured heavy criticism with the announcement of a docuseries produced by Oprah Winfrey. While many have lauded Sam, there have also been jabs at him, most recently with ESPN’s report on his showering habits.

With more scrutiny and pressure than any seventh-round pick in NFL history, plus the hopes of an entire community on his shoulders, Sam performed well in four preseason games, tallying three sacks and leading the team in tackles just last Thursday against the Miami Dolphins.

The Rams’ decision to cut him is just another hurdle that will ultimately demonstrate the courage and fortitude of a great man.

The man knows how to overcome set-backs and handle pressure. He was made for this trailblazing role. He was made for the NFL.

Many in the LGBT community are lashing out at the NFL today, claiming homophobia. It’s understandable. Gay men have been told for decades they’re not good enough to play football, they’re not welcome in the locker rooms. Some of those messages have even reverberated in 2014. While the Rams’ decision wasn’t based on homophobia, it’s hard not to afford gay men a little foot-stomping at this latest rejection.

You know who isn’t lashing out? Michael Sam. He knew this was always a possibility, part of the cold business that is the NFL. A coach is your mentor and father-figure one day. The next afternoon he gives you a pink slip. Sam understands this is not the end, but rather another opportunity to prove his doubters wrong, earn his spot at the very top of his profession and take his rightful place in history.

“The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy,” Sam said in a statement after learning the Rams’ decision. “This is a lesson I’ve always known.

“The journey continues.”

Zeigler is co-founder and editor of Outsports.com.

TIME Football

49ers’ Aldon Smith Gets 9-Game Suspension Following DUIs

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith has been suspended for nine NFL games following a number of incidents including making a false bomb threat and two arrests for driving under the influence.

“Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team,” the team’s general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead.”

Smith has a long list of transgressions to his name. He was charged with possession of illegal assault rifles and driving under the influence in May and pleaded no contest. He faced another DUI charge in 2012. Smith was also arrested in April at Los Angeles International Airport for allegedly suggesting that he was carrying a bomb, but formal charges were never filed.

The punishment means the 49ers will be without a key player for most of the regular season this year. Smith will be eligible to return to the field in November.

TIME NFL

The Easiest Call of Roger Goodell’s Career

2014 NFL Draft
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who admitted on Thursday that his punishment of Ray Race for domestic violence was too lenient, at the 2014 NFL Draft. Elsa—Getty Images

Apologizing for the Ray Rice error, and stiffening penalties for domestic abusers, was a no- brainer. Now, the real work begins

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell talks a lot about integrity. Do the wrong thing, PacMan Jones and Ben Roethlisberger and Sean Payton, and you will be sidelined.

So Goodell’s decision to issue a two-game suspension for Ray Rice — the Baltimore Ravens running back who was caught on film dragging his unconscious fiancé out of an Atlantic City elevator after an altercation — was particularly noxious. Especially in a league that hands down year-long suspensions for smoking marijuana, a recreational habit that is not only relatively innocuous, but legal in two states.

Goodell, in a league-wide memo circulated on Thursday, admitted that, in the Rice affair, “I didn’t get it right.” So he reversed course, and instituted a new policy that calls for much harsher punishment for players who assault women — even a potential lifetime ban for a repeat offender. But there’s no need to call Goodell’s move bold or stunning, or give him a standing ovation.

Because it was the easiest call of his career.

After all, if Goodell is going to preach integrity, correcting the indefensible is no act of courage. “The Ray Rice decision was offensive,” says Joan Meier, legal director of the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project, and law professor at the George Washington University Law School. Under the new policy, a player who assaults a woman will be suspended six games; the commissioner retains his right to add to that punishment if the incident includes “violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child.” A first-time NFL offender could receive a longer suspension if he had a prior domestic violence incident before entering the league. The lifetime ban for the second offense does come with a caveat: a player may apply for reinstatement after a year, though “there will be no presumption or assurance that the petition will be granted.”

“This is the most positive action we’ve seen by the NFL and Mr. Goodell,” says Ruth Glenn, interim executive director for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “My gut reaction was one of real hope – for the first time in a long time, the NFL seems serious about trying to fight domestic violence”

One fear, says Meier, is that harsher penalties could deter victims from reporting abuse. “If a victim is financially dependent on the abuser, and his livelihood is completely taken away, she could suffer harm,” says Meier. So Meier is cheering the NFL’s willingness to give second offenders a chance to re-enter the league after a year. “That’s enough time for the perpetrator to really get his act together,” says Meier. “If the penalties are too draconian, you risk punishing the victim.”

On paper, the NFL’s intentions seem noble. But penalties alone won’t solve the problem. The league must prove this is more than a PR move. “Good for the NFL, and good for Mr. Goodell,” says Glenn. “But we’ll be watching. This can’t just be a policy. Players have to be responsible, and their teammates and coaches have to come forward if they witness any abuse, or just know something’s going on. The entire culture has to change.”

TIME NFL

NFL Cracks Down on Domestic Violence After Criticism

2014 NFL Draft
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on May 8, 2014 in New York City. Elsa—Getty Images

Six-game suspension for a first offense, lifetime ban for a second

The NFL said Thursday that it would impose stricter penalties on players and any other league personnel who commit domestic abuse, following fierce criticism of a two-game suspension it handed down to a player who allegedly beat his fiancée.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made the announcement in a letter to team owners, saying that anyone in the league who violates its Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault will face a six-game suspension for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense. And he alluded to the outrage that followed the two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who had been indicted for allegedly hitting his now wife so hard that he knocked her unconscious.

“Whether in the context of workplace conduct, advancing policies of diversity and inclusion, or promoting professionalism in all we do, our mission has been to create and sustain model workplaces filled with people of character,” Goodell wrote. “Although the NFL is celebrated for what happens on the field, we must be equally vigilant in what we do off the field.

“At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals,” he continued. “We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”

The NFL suspended Rice last month for two games. A video posted online appeared to show Rice dragging his unconscious then fiancée out of an elevator in an Atlantic City casino after the alleged incident.

In the letter, Goodell also announced a series of education and training for players and all NFL personnel, additional support for educational programs in schools and youth football programs, and a campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault and prevention.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong,” read a memo to all NFL personnel that was included in the letter. “They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances.”

The NFL Players Association reacted cautiously to the change Thursday.

“We were informed today of the NFL’s decision to increase penalties on domestic violence offenders under the Personal Conduct Policy for all NFL employees,” the players’ union said in a statement. “As we do in all disciplinary matters, if we believe that players’ due process rights are infringed upon during the course of discipline, we will assert and defend our members’ rights.”

MONEY Sports

NFL Preseason Tickets Aren’t Even Worth $10

Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns scrambles for a touchdown during the third quarter against the St. Louis Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 23, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Johnny Manziel of the Cleveland Browns scrambles for a touchdown during the third quarter against the St. Louis Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 23, 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio. Joe Sargent—Getty Images

What do fans think of NFL preseason games? Basically that they're meaningless, to the point that they're sometimes not worth paying $10, or even $5, to attend.

Every year around this time, sports talk radio overflows with rants about the meaninglessness of the NFL preseason. Actually, the anger is about more than just that the games don’t mean anything in terms of rankings or even what fans can expect out of their team in the coming (real) season. Sure, the quality of the games is low due to the fact that starters rarely play for more than a few minutes. But that’s only part of the equation that makes the preseason a magnet for hate.

What also gets fans up in arms is that some of their team’s favorite, most important players might get hurt when they do briefly jump into the action during these meaningless games. And the thing that really drives the most loyal fans nuts is that they are forced to buy tickets—usually at full price—for these matchups that mostly feature players they don’t know and may not see again in the regular season. Anyone who buys season tickets, after all, is required to pay for seats for two home preseason games as part of the package. These are tickets, by the way, that cost an average of $81 apiece at face value last year.

During the regular season, prices on the secondary market for those tickets can and often do soar far above their face value. According to the ticket resale and research site TiqIQ, the average resale price for tickets at most NFL stadiums is more than $200, and tickets for home games for Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots average over $400.

That’s all during the regular season, though. During the preseason, it’s a different story entirely—because, again, fans couldn’t care less. Leading into this past weekend, tickets for NFL preseason games hosted in Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta, and Arizona were all selling for $10 or less at secondary ticket sites such as StubHub. Meanwhile, the get-in price on Thursday night in Buffalo, when the Bills host the Detroit Lions in their final preseason game, has dropped as low as $4.50.

Another game this Thursday, in which the San Diego Chargers will host the Arizona Cardinals, is also a matchup drawing a remarkable disinterest among fans. Not only is it a work night, but not much is expected in terms of success or playoff runs from either team this year—plus the two teams are playing again, 11 days after this preseason game, when it actually means something as the Monday Night Football season opener.

Last week, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that tickets to the preseason game were starting at around $6 on the secondary market, with many seats selling for 85% off face value. Prime seats on the 50-yard line were on the market for around $19.

Stating the obvious, Miro Copic, a San Diego State University College of Business Administration marketing lecturer, said to the Union-Tribune that the shockingly low prices of these games “really does create a question about the value of preseason for fans.”

He then offered an interesting suggestion that could turn the preseason, currently a subject of great frustration among fans, into something that could make them happy, and even build the customer base: “It’s almost like the NFL could offer them for free as a PR activity. One of the things that should be considered is how do you make preseason a way to engage fans who otherwise may not afford a Charger game, or are now willing to get apparel?”

TIME Football

Bradford Out for Season With ACL Tear

Sam Bradford
St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford leaves the field after getting hit by Cleveland Browns defensive end Armonty Bryant in Cleveland on Aug. 23, 2014 David Richard—AP

In all, five St. Louis Rams starters were hurt in the first half against the Browns on Saturday night

(ST. LOUIS) — Jeff Fisher shared the bad news with Sam Bradford on Sunday morning.

By the time the St. Louis Rams coach began his day-after news conference, he’d had several hours to digest the impact of an injury that puts the team’s once-rosy outlook in serious doubt, and to give a vote of confidence to journeyman backup Shaun Hill.

After announcing Bradford’s season-ending torn ACL in his left knee for the second time in nine months, Fisher said speculation about a trade was premature.

At the least, they’ll likely wait to see who hits the market in the first round of cuts on Tuesday when rosters must be at 75 players.

“It makes no sense to jump and react right now and try to fill the hole at whatever cost,” Fisher said. “We’re going to take our time and evaluate this.

“There’s going to be some quarterbacks that are released and there may or may not be some quarterbacks out there that have trade value.”

Fisher confirmed the extent of the injury first reported by ESPN and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He said no timetable had been set for surgery.

“We lost Sam for the year,” Fisher said. “The news was devastating to him.”

The coach quickly added that everyone at Rams Park must quickly become accustomed to the 34-year-old Hill running the offense.

“We’re going to move forward, we’re not going to change anything,” Fisher said. “We have to move on and Shaun’s the guy.”

In all, five starters were hurt in the first half against the Browns Saturday night. Fisher called it a “nightmare.”

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson was carted off with a knee injury and three others — guard Rodger Saffold and defensive tackles Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers — left with ankle injuries.

Johnson will be out 4-6 weeks with an MCL tear, but Fisher said Saffold, Langford and Brockers could play if needed in the preseason finale Thursday at Miami.

Bradford was injured in the first quarter of Saturday night’s 33-14 preseason victory at Cleveland. He was hit on his left side by Browns defensive end Armonty Bryant as he threw a pass, and hopped briefly on his right leg before dropping to the ground.

Fisher said the injury was a “one in 100″ rarity.

“The knee was locked and something has to give,” Fisher said. “Unfortunately, the ACL gave.”

Bradford, the first overall pick of the 2010 draft, missed the last nine games last season after getting injured at Carolina. The Rams also have rookie Garrett Gilbert and Austin Davis on the roster.

Hill strolled through the auditorium to a meeting as Fisher walked to the podium and Davis also made an appearance during the news conference.

“Shaun’s our guy,” Fisher said. “I brought him here.”

The Rams shifted to a ground-heavy offense after Bradford was injured last year and Kellen Clemens inherited the job. They were 3-4 with Bradford and 4-5 with Clemens.

Unlike Bradford, Clemens was a bit of a scrambler. Hill is more in the Bradford mold of a drop-back passer.

After the game, Fisher thought Bradford might have hyperextended the knee and was “very optimistic.”Bradford walked off the field, and then walked to the locker room after the injury.

Wide receiver Brian Quick said he was assured by the quarterback that he was “OK.”

“It is a tremendous loss for them,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said. “We knew that it didn’t look like much when it happened, but I just think it was a good amount of weight that got put on it. It’s such an unfortunate thing.”

Pettine said there “certainly wasn’t any intent” by Bryant to hurt Bradford.

Bradford had 14 touchdown passes and four interceptions last season. The Rams then upgraded their offensive line by drafting guard-tackle Greg Robinson No. 2 overall.

Bradford played in two preseason games and was 4 for 9 for 77 yards against the Browns.

The 34-year-old Hill has thrown only 16 passes the past three seasons as the backup in Detroit. He made 10 starts in 2010 for the Lions in place of injured Matthew Stafford and beat the Rams for Detroit’s first win after a 0-4 start.

“He makes good decisions, he’s mobile and just understands defense,” Fisher said. “He’s very reliable.”

TIME NFL

5 Best Reactions to the NFL’s ‘Pay-to-Play’ Superbowl Halftime Scheme

Based on no scientific rubric at all

+ READ ARTICLE

The National Football League is planning to introduce at least one significant change to its halftime show at the Superbowl: in order to perform, superstar acts will pay for the privilege.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the league is considering three acts for its next halftime extravaganza in early 2015: Katy Perry, Rihanna and Coldplay. But unlike in previous years, these performers have been asked to shill out dough in the form of post-Super Bowl tour income or another “financial contribution.”

The news was not received well in some quarters, but some met it with more humor than others. And so, we bring you: the 6 best reactions on Twitter to the NFL’s new “pay to play” scheme, based on no scientific rubric at all and entirely on this writer’s whim.

 

TIME Big Picture

Meet Levi’s Stadium, the Most High-Tech Sports Venue Yet

Levi's Stadium
A general view during a preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium on August 17, 2014 in Santa Clara, California Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Most people have heard of smartphones, smart cars and smart homes. Say hello to the smart stadium.

Set in the heart of Silicon Valley, Levi’s Stadium — home to the San Francisco 49ers — is now the most high-tech stadium anywhere in the world.

It’s in the center of the tech universe, of course, so it’s only natural that 49ers management decided to devote a significant sum of money to building high-tech infrastructure. The stadium will allow all 70,000+ fans to connect to Wi-Fi and 4G networks to take advantage of personalized services, making the event experience more enjoyable.

I had the privilege of attending the inaugural event at Levi’s Stadium, where the San Jose Earthquakes took on the Seattle Sounders in an MLS league game. About 49,000 people attended that event, well below the stadium’s 70,000+ seat capacity, so the game served as a dry run to work out some of the kinks. I also attended the first NFL game to be played in the stadium: the Denver Broncos came to town to help the 49ers christen the stadium in a preseason game on Aug 17. The first regular-season NFL game will be held there on Sept 14, and will serve as the official grand opening of the stadium.

Turning Downtime Into Screen Time

What I discovered from these two experiences is that the 49ers’ stadium is indeed the most tech-advanced stadium in the world, using technology to make the fan experience much richer and more entertaining. Al Guido, the COO of the 49ers, told me that one challenge that’s been an issue in the NFL is that the amount of action that takes place in a football game only about amounts to about 15 minutes. People want access to things like stats, replays and other media when live play isn’t taking place.

During that downtime, the 49ers organization wanted to deliver all types of new ways to enjoy the game, turning to technology to deliver it through a connected experience. According to Mr. Guido, “The 49ers wanted to transform the in-stadium fan experience and make it possible to see the action live but still have the similar features that a fan has at home while watching the game on TV.”

Cables, Routers and Bandwidth Aplenty

So how did the 49ers and their tech partners achieve the goal of enhancing the fan experience by harnessing technology for this purpose?

According to Dan Williams, the VP of technology for Levi’s Stadium, they laid out 400 miles of cabling, 70 miles of which are just dedicated to connecting the 1,200 distributed antenna systems that serve the Wi-Fi routers that are placed to serve every 100 seats throughout the stadium. Levi’s Stadium features a backbone of 40 gigabits per second of available bandwidth, easily scalable to accomodate event attendance, which is 40 times more Internet bandwidth capacity than any known U.S. stadium, and four times greater than the standard for NFL stadiums that’s been mandated by the league to be in place by 2015.

Levi's Stadium Router
Access points are spread throughout the stadium every 100 seats, serving up wireless Internet service to fans during the games Ben Bajarin for TIME
Levi's Stadium Repeater
Repeaters placed throughout Levi’s Stadium pass Internet service along from section to section Ben Bajarin for TIME

The stadium also has about 1,700 high-tech beacons. Using the latest version of the Bluetooth Low Energy standard, these beacons can be used to give people pinpoint directions to their seats as well as to any other place in the stadium. They can also be used to send them alerts about specials from concession stands and other promotions from time to time.

Tech Partnerships

One of the companies that contributed to the overall strategy and execution of some the stadium’s high-tech features is Sony. Sony’s technology is at the center of the stadium’s control room, which manages all of the video for the over 2,000 Sony TVs that have been placed around the venue, as well as the 70 4K TVs found in most of the suites and the two giant LED displays in each end zone.

When I asked Mike Fasulo, the president and COO of Sony Electronics, about his company’s involvement in the new Levi’s Stadium, he told me, “Our partnership with the San Francisco 49ers and the new Levi’s Stadium goes well beyond technology and products. This is truly a one-of-a-kind fan experience, with the world’s greatest showcase of 4K technology from the best of Sony’s professional and consumer products. For every event, every fan will be immersed in the pinnacle of entertainment and technology to enhance their experience.”

Other major sponsors from the tech world include Intel, SAP, Yahoo and Brocade.

An App to Tie It All Together

There’s also a Levi’s Stadium smartphone and tablet app, which offers the following features:

  • The app can guide people to the parking lot entrance closest to their seats, and then once inside, guide them to their actual seats.
  • Fans can watch up to four replays at a time during the game, seeing the exact replays shown by the studio as if they were watching at home on their TV. A fan can actually watch the game live on this app as well. They can also get stats and other info related to the game via this app.
  • It can guide fans to the closest bathroom with the shortest lines, which I predict will become the most used feature at any game.
  • Fans can connect either by Wi-Fi or to one of the 4G networks from the major carriers. Each of the big telecom networks has expanded its antenna service to enhance its customers’ wireless connections within the stadium.
  • Fans can order food and drink from any seat in the stadium and it will be delivered directly to their seats. People also have the option of ordering food from their seats and going to an express line at the concession stands to pick up their food in person, too.

The painstaking attention to tech detail that the 49ers and its partners have integrated into Levi’s Stadium is sure to be the envy of NFL stadiums throughout the U.S. For the time being, it’s the gold standard in high-tech stadiums and one that’s sure to be copied by many sports facilities around the world.

The Valley Advantage

However, I suspect that by being in the heart of Silicon Valley, this stadium may keep the lead in high-tech wizardry for some time. Keep in mind that the tech companies partnered with the 49ers on Levi’s Stadium because it also provided them a showcase for their technology. As Sony’s Fasulo stated above, it provided the company with a major showcase for its 4K professional and consumer products. Intel loves the fact that all of the servers that are used to power the networks show off the power of Intel processors, and Brocade’s networking technology is showcased as a world- class solution.

Silicon Valley is also the center of tech innovation. As people in the industry continue to create new technologies that can be used to enhance the sports experience, where do you think they will take it first? Since the 49ers have already shown a commitment to using technology for delivering the ultimate in-stadium fan experience, the organization will most likely be open to all sorts of new technology to help it deliver an even greater experience in the future. Think of this symbiotic relationship between Silicon Valley’s tech companies and the 49ers as home field advantage for both.

It’s probably not a stretch to say that the pioneering efforts of the 49ers to make Levi’s Stadium a truly smart stadium will force other NFL stadiums to follow the team’s lead, striving to make all of their stadiums smarter. It will also serve as a potential blueprint for other sports stadiums around the world. Being in Silicon Valley does have its advantages, though: With the kinds of tech sponsors and partners that are in its back yard, I suspect that Levi’s Stadium will continue to get smarter and smarter.

Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every week on TIME Tech.

TIME NFL

Redskins Seek to Overturn Trademark Decision, Keep Name

Detroit Lions v Washington Redskins
A Washington Redskins flag on the field before the game against the Detroit Lions at FedExField on September 22, 2013 in Landover, Maryland. G Fiume/Getty Images

The team will present new evidence to argue that its name and logo are not offensive

The Washington Redskins filed a lawsuit on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Virginia, contesting a federal decision to cancel the team’s trademark registration.

On June 18, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled in favor of five Native Americans who said that the team’s name and logo were offensive. The three-member appeals board based their two-to-one ruling on several factors: dictionaries have defined the term as offensive for decades; the National Congress of American Indians resolved in 1993 that the label was racist; and Native Americans’ testimony has maintained that “redskins” was a slur tantamount to the N-Word. Federal law bans any trademark that “may disparage” individuals or groups.

The June ruling came a month after 50 U.S. senators signed an open letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking the league to change the team’s name.

But despite mounting pressure to change, the Redskins are still standing firm. Team ownership has argued that the name celebrates Native Americans. On Monday, the team premiered a video in which a handful of Native Americans explained why the name wasn’t offensive.

“We believe that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ignored both federal case law and the weight of the evidence, and we look forward to having a federal court review this obviously flawed decision,” Bob Raskopf, trademark attorney for the Washington Redskins, said in a statement released by the team Thursday.

By choosing to sue the five Native Americans who won the June case in federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia, the Redskins now have the opportunity to present new evidence and appeal the case if they lose. In a Washington, D.C. court, the team would have been limited to using old depositions and documents.

Redskins owner Daniel Synder has sworn to never change the name and gone as far as to call it a “badge of honor.” During the appeals process, the team can continue selling merchandise with the name and logo. The team will lose the logo if the Redskins exhaust the appeals process, but even then they still might be able to sell merchandise by leaning on state trademark laws.

But Native American activists say they will continue to fight for however long it takes. “This effort is doomed to fail, but if they want to prolong this litigation which has already gone on for 22 years, I guess they have that prerogative,” Amanda Blackhouse, one of the five Native Americans being sued by the team, said in a statement. “We know that time is on our side for a change in the team’s name, and we are confident we will win once again at this stage of the litigation.”

TIME Football

Washington Redskins Defend Name With Help From Native Americans

"It's a warrior's name"

+ READ ARTICLE

The Washington Redskins premiered a video Monday in which Native Americans explain why they don’t think the team’s hot-button name is offensive.

The video, released by the “Redskins Facts” campaign reportedly funded by the team, features Native Americans from across the country arguing that the moniker is “a powerful name — it’s a warrior’s name.”

This counters the message of a powerful ad paid for by the California tribe Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation during the June NBA Finals called Proud to Be, in which a voiceover said, “Native Americans call themselves many things. The one thing they don’t…” before flashing to an image of a Redskins helmet.

In the Redskins Facts video, Native Americans argue that they have bigger issues to deal with than a football team’s name. “They’ve never asked Native Americans. It’s somebody else who knows nothing about us trying to speak for us, and it’s kind of an insult,” Wade Colliflower, Team Redskins representative from the Chippewa Cree Tribe, said before adding, “If you can help in any other way it would be greatly appreciated.”

Former players including Gary Clark, Chris Cooley and Mark Moseley traveled to Rocky Boy’s Reservation last month as a part of the campaign, The Washington Post reports. Ads for Redskins Facts have been showing up on various media sites as well:

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