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Is the Patent Office the Final Blow Against Offensive “Redskins” Name?

Is the Patent Office the Final Blow Against Offensive “Redskins” Name?

It’s been well over a year since pressure began mounting on the Washington Redskins professional football team to change its name and mascot, with Native American groups noting that the term is a demeaning and offensive racial stereotype. Now, a new ruling from the federal regulatory agencies may have finally pushed the team’s owners past the point of no return in a way that the court of public opinion has so far been unable to.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has officially rejected the patents on the team’s name, citing the fact that the term is “disparaging to Native Americans.” According to the Washington Post, federal trademark law forbids the registration of trademarks that “may disparage” any groups or individualsor “bring them into contempt or disrepute.”

The name has been the center of massive controversy that has grown fever pitched in recent months, as team owner Dan Snyder has publicly and repeatedly refused to change the name of the team despite increasing sentiment that the name was hurtful and offensive. “We will never change the name of the team,” Snyder told USA TODAY Sports. “As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means, so we feel pretty fortunate to be just working on next season…We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER you can use caps.”

Even Congress has taken a swing at removing the team’s name, approaching the NFL commissioner to ask for its involvement in the matter.In May half of the sitting senators signed onto a letter NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to intervene, even bringing on a few GOP members to make it a bipartisan effort.

The Senate’s involvement didn’t stop there, either. Just this last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced his intentions to not attend a game until the team name was changed, even after being invited by the owners. “I will not stand idly by while a professional sports team promotes a racial slur as a team name and disparages the American people,” Sen. Reid wrote in response to the invitation.”Nor will I consider your invitation to attend a home game until your organization chooses to do the right thing and change its offensive name.

The offensive nature of the name goes beyond the racial stereotype that it evokes about the Native American people and culture. As Esquire Magazine reports, “redskin” is more than just racist nickname, but a term of violence and dehumanization as well, and refers not to their skin color but the practice of genocide against them when colonialists came to America. “They paid well 50 pounds for adult male scalps; 25 for adult female scalps; and 20 for scalps of boys and girls under age 12. These bloody scalps were known as ‘redskins,’” writes Baxter Holmes.”The mascot of the Washington Redskins, if the team desired accuracy, would be a gory, bloodied crown from the head of a butchered Native American.”

Opponents of the name are hoping that this means victory is in reach. “We are extraordinarily gratified to have prevailed in this case,” said Alfred Putnam Jr., the chairman of Drinker Biddle & Reath, whose firm has represented five Native Americans challenging the team over its name. “The dedication and professionalism of our attorneys and the determination of our clients have resulted in a milestone victory that will serve as an historic precedent.”

The football team, on the other hand, has already vowed to appeal.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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68 comments

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8:05PM PST on Dec 7, 2014

I don't care if they change the name or not, but the whole scalp anecdote has been debunked. Do some research before you grab onto the first inflammatory device you can use to fit your narrative.

5:27AM PDT on Jun 26, 2014

@ Anne K. Native Americans DID find the name offensive in the 1970s. In fact, there were probably more back then that found it offensive, since the younger folks have not heard the word nearly as much.
Scroll down and read Alex P's explanation.

12:58AM PDT on Jun 22, 2014

As long as there are humans who draw breath, there will be racism, prejudice and nastiness.

3:45AM PDT on Jun 21, 2014

Only time will tell.

6:58PM PDT on Jun 20, 2014

racist name calling is as american as Philly cheese steaks!

6:43PM PDT on Jun 20, 2014

The Redskins have been the Redskins since the 1930's. According to an article I read, the name was selected to honor their coach at the time, who was part native American. If people find it offensive now, didn't they find it offensive in the 1970's?

This reminds me of the band Spirit waiting 40 years to sue Led Zeppelin over the intro to Stairway To Heaven.

If the Redskins change their name, will they still be able to sing their great fight song? (Hail To The Redskins) They'll have to choose a name that fits the song.

1:29PM PDT on Jun 20, 2014

There are a number of names of various indigenous peoples that could be used -- especially since there were various groups living in that area before the Europeans illegally immigrated into the area and stole the land from the indigenous peoples.

I find "redskin" offensive. I also find other racial slurs offensive.

Is being polite or civil too much to ask?

12:39PM PDT on Jun 20, 2014

What if the name was the Washington niggers.
they can jack don up for his racial remarks BUT the nfl re4fuses to do anything about Dan Snyder constant racial symbols.

What if they where name the Washington niggers with a swastika on there helmet in the early 40's even thought it would be allowed it still shouldn't be, it has a racial meaning any way you say it..

12:09PM PDT on Jun 20, 2014

The change that would get Dan Snyder canonized instead of shot would be to retain the helmet logo and colors exactly as is and to replace the offensive word with "Americans".

The Washington Americans with a Native American in profile as a logo sounds excellent to me.

12:04PM PDT on Jun 20, 2014

noted

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