Washington Redskins are one step closer to losing their name

RedskinsBy Savannah Marie
@savfmarie
June 21, 2014

The federal government has just dealt a major blow to the Washington Redskins in the fight to keep their controversial team name. In a big victory for equal rights, the United States Patent and Trademark Office denied the Redskins the six trademark renewals they had requested.

Amanda Blackhorse, a social worker and activist, deserves much of the credit for the victory. She is the plaintiff in the case known as Blackhorse et al v. Pro-Football Inc., which alleged the name was a racial slur. The Patent and Trademark office agreed.

The board found that the team should never have received a patent for the name in the first place, as “redskin” was considered an offensive, racist term at the time of the first patent application.

Blackhorse and her supporters have fought a long and difficult battle to get to this point. She first filed her appeal to the Patent and Trademark Office almost 8 years ago, and Native Americans and their supporters had been trying to have the team name revoked for quite some time before that. But because the larger public was hesitant to support their cause, the issue stagnated for years.

There are those who would argue the Redskins’ name should stay simply because that’s the way it always was, or the term “redskins” isn’t actually that racist. Some will say not enough Native Americans are offended by the term, and the people fighting for its removal aren’t even real Native Americans.

In light of the lack of support, those against the Redskins’ name felt the battle would be most easily fought through patent appeals. If the team’s patent were to be revoked, anyone could market products using the team’s name. This would give the Redskins’ organization a huge incentive to change their name in order to begin to profit off of their own marketing.

Those who are in favor of the Redskins keeping their name will often say the complaint seems random, or that it seems odd for Native Americans to “suddenly” have a problem with it. However, they are quick to forget the battle has been fought since at least the 1970s, when Native Americans were requesting various sports teams around the country drop their Indian mascots.

In 1992, the Patent and Trademark Office actually did hear a case against the patent renewal for the Redskins’ name. They even made the same decision and deemed the name un-patentable due to its hateful, racist sentiment. Due to a technical error, though, the ruling was overturned by a higher court. Plaintiffs have assured authorities they haven’t made the same mistake again, and this time the ruling will be for good.      

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