House Bill Would Revoke Washington NFL Team's Trademarks

House Bill Would Revoke Washington NFL Team's Trademarks

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) introduced legislation Tuesday that would revoke trademarks for the Washington NFL team for as long as the franchise keeps its controversial name.

"It is unbelievable to me that, in the 21st century, a prominent NFL franchise is calling itself by a racial slur," Honda said in a statement. "Team names should not be offensive to anyone. Allowing trademark protection of this word is akin to the government approving its use. Removing that trademark will send a clear message that this name is not acceptable."

The bill would officially deem the word "redskins" a disparaging term, making it ineligible for trademark under the Lanham Act. The legislation would revoke the team's existing federal trademarks and block new ones using the term. Honda co-sponsored similar legislation in 2013.

"We encourage everyone to support our Original Americans foundation and see for themselves the overwhelming support for our team," Tony Wyllie, a senior vice president for the Redskins, said in a statement to The Huffington Post, referencing the foundation started by Snyder last year.

Wyllie also cited polling he said was "inconsistent with the focus of [Honda's] legislation," including several surveys that found a majority of respondents don't believe the term "redskins" is offensive.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in June canceled six trademark registrations for the name "Washington Redskins" on the grounds that they were "disparaging to Native Americans." The team appealed, calling the decision "obviously flawed." The trademarks remain intact while the appeal is pending.

Last month, the Justice Department announced it would intervene in the case to defend the Lanham Act, which the NFL team's lawyers have assailed as "unconstitutionally vague" and an infringement on First Amendment rights.

"The Department of Justice is dedicated to defending the constitutionality of the important statute ensuring that trademark issues involving disparaging and derogatory language are dealt with fairly,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda said in a statement.

Honda's bill, co-sponsored by 26 House Democrats, is the latest congressional attempt to get the football team to change its name. In 2013, Honda was one of 10 lawmakers who sent a letter to team owner Dan Snyder, arguing that “Native Americans throughout the country consider the ‘R-word’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word.'" In May, 50 senators signed a letter urging NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to change the team's name.

President Barack Obama also has weighed in on the name, telling The Associated Press in 2013 that he'd "think about changing it" if he were the team's owner.

The public, however, has largely sided with Snyder, who has said he will "never" change the name. A HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted in June found that 21 percent of respondents said the team should change its name, while 62 percent said the team should not. A 2014 Sports Illustrated survey of NFL fans had similar findings.

This story has been updated to include comment from Tony Wyllie.

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