Native American Tribe Files Lawsuit Over ‘Offensive’ Beer Advertisement

Philip DeVoe Contributor
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The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch Wednesday after being “offended” at the company’s usage of their tribe’s logo and slogan to promote its Budweiser and Bud Light products.

“As alcohol and drug abuse are often associated with Native American culture, the use of the Lumbee tribal brand and an image of a Native American dancer in an advertisement promoting an alcohol product is viewed as particularly offensive to Lumbee People,” Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin said in a statement.

The beer distributor R.A. Jeffreys Distributing Company used the tribe’s logo – a circle divided into fourths and coloured red, white, yellow, and black – and slogan – “Heritage, Pride & Strength” – as well as Native American imagery without receiving permission from the tribe in advance as part of promotions in some North Carolina stores.

On June 9, the distributor received a telephone call from Lumbee Tribe officials where the tribe objected to the advertisements, resulting in the distributor’s removal of all Lumbee-inspired materials from displays.

“R.A. Jeffreys regrets any offense that may have been taken to the use of the materials in which the Lumbee Tribe claims an interest, and… will not make any further use of such materials unless specifically permitted to do so by the Lumbee Tribe,” the company said in a statement obtained by local North Carolina station WUNC.

Anheuser-Busch distanced itself from R.A. Jeffreys in a separate statement, also obtained by WUNC, where they apologized to the Lumbee Tribe and expressed their regret. Neither statement dissuaded the Lumbee Tribe from bringing a suit against the beer giant.

“Members of the Tribe and others in the community mistakenly believed that the Lumbee Tribe gave its permission for the Tribe’s name and trademarks to be used to sell alcoholic beverages and were offended because alcohol abuse is often associated with Native American culture,” reads a post on the tribe’s website outlining the details of the lawsuit.

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