After successfully evading the backlash against their controversial team name and logo amidst the many NFL scandals last season, the Washington Redskins are once again the subject of public scrutiny. This time, the scrutiny also has legal ramifications.
A federal judge ruled today that the team’s trademark registration must be canceled. That doesn't mean the mascot will necessarily be changed, however. The ruling states that the team can continue using the Redskins name and issuing trademark infringement lawsuits, according to ESPN.. It will simply lose many of the protections guaranteed by a federally-registered trademark.
The Redskins organization sued a group of five Native American activists in August 2014 after their trademark registration was voided earlier that year, according to CNN. The group of Native American activists claimed, as have many others, that the logo and name of the football team are insensitive to Native Americans. It’s been a long-running legal battle that’s only intensified due to recent criticism.
Unsurprisingly, the Redskins are pushing back against the ruling. They are expected to file several appeals, and the trademark registration will not officially be removed until that process is complete.
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“I am surprised by the judge’s decision to prevent us from presenting our evidence in an open trial,” said team president Bruce Allen in a statement, according to Comcast Sportsnet Washington. “We look forward to winning on appeal after a fair and impartial review of the case.
"We are convinced that we will win because the facts and the law are on the side of our franchise that has proudly used the name Redskins for more than 80 years.”
The fact that the Redskins name has been around for so long is one of the primary arguments in its defense. This line of reasoning appears similar to the argument supporters of the Confederate Flag make -- that the emblem is a symbol of Southern heritage, rather than racism and slavery.
Tradition is tradition, longtime Redskins fans argue. While it’s true that the name has taken on a non-racist connotation of its own — the word “Redskin” most likely brings to mind images of a football player to modern Americans, not Native Americans — there’s no denying that it’s rooted in racism and speaks to the country’s troubled history.
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The fact that Washington is holding onto the name so dearly probably stems solely from the fact that Dan Snyder and the rest of the Redskins organization profits off of it. They are willing to fight for what has been deemed bigotry in the court of law in order to keep the name that has earned them money “for more than 80 years.”
The name and logo might not seem like an outright symbol of racism to them or the players and staffed involved with the organization, but the fact that a group of Native Americans are insulted and dehumanized by the word and associated imagery should be enough of a sign that it’s time to move forward.
Given the massive amount of revenue that the team generates — Forbes values them at $2.4 billion, the third most profitable team in the NFL — it’s likely that they’ll continue fighting the issue in court. It’s unclear what it will take to change Snyder’s mind, but it seems inevitable that the name will have to be changed eventually.
Image Source: WikiCommons, Keith Allison/Flickr