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Jeep name controversy sparks dialogue

The issue may not make it to court, but it could be influenced by the court of public opinion.
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:23 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Jeep has been selling models with the Cherokee name for about 45 years, but now the Cherokee Nation is asking the automaker to stop.

Many of those vehicles were made right here in Toledo and Jeep says the names have been carefully chosen through the years to celebrate the nobility and pride of Native Americans. But the Principal Cheif of the Cherokee Nation disagrees. He says having the tribe’s name plastered on the side of a car doesn’t honor them, even if it was well-intended.

“All of the awareness raised in the last few years about race, inequity, and discrimination in society has many of us looking at things in a new light,” says Geoffrey Rapp, a professor at the University of Toledo College of Law. “I think with the consciousness raised, there is an increasing pressure to re-think the standard way of doing business.”

Professor Rapp points out that the Cherokee Nation is not asking Jeep to stop making the iconic SUVs, just to change the name. He also says that while the issue may not end up in a court of law, the Cherokee Nation may score a win in the court of public opinion.

“The attention from the community can wear down a team or a business so they voluntarily change the name,” says Rapp.

Rapp says that’s what happened when it came to a name change for the Washington Football Team. He adds that no matter how you feel about this issue, it’s opened up an important dialogue.

“I think the conversation gives everybody the opportunity to re-think the path forward and hopefully they can find a settlement that all parties are willing to accept and live with,” he says.

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