Washington Redskins Trademark Dispute Comes As Mayor And Congressman Call For Redskins Name Change

A Washington Redskins fan holds an American Flag on ESPN Monday Night Football September 11, 2006 in Washington.  The Minneso
A Washington Redskins fan holds an American Flag on ESPN Monday Night Football September 11, 2006 in Washington. The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Redskins 19 - 16. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Redskins are facing another name challenge.

On Thursday a group of Native Americans will go before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to argue that the team should lose federal trademark protection for the term “Redskins” because law prohibits trademarking disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or disreputable names. Many Native Americans say the term “Redskins” is a racial slur, although the team says there’s nothing offensive about it.

This isn't a new controversy or lawsuit for the franchise. In 1992 Harjo first filed a lawsuit against the team for their trademark. She won in 1999. That ruling was overturned in 2003.

The Hill is reporting that Mayor Vincent Gray is hoping momentum on Capitol Hill will get the Redskins to change their name and come back to playing in Washington D.C.:

Gray told The Hill he was encouraged by comments made to the paper earlier this week by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), in which they pushed for the Redskins to change its name.

“I know the issue of the name is going to be raised in the course of discussing them coming back home,” Gray told The Hill. “And there are going to be people who will be bitterly opposed to that.”

In January Gray said the team should at least consider a name change. "I think it has become a lightning rod, and I would be love to be able to sit down with the team … and see if a change should be made," the Washington Post reported Gray saying. "There’s a precedent for this, and I think there needs to be a dispassionate discussion about this, and do the right thing.”

Last month a panel discussion at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, "Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports," covered the topic. Judge Judith Bartnoff, a panelist and Deputy Presiding Judge at the Civil Division of the D.C. Superior Court, explained "the other names in other contexts are not offensive, this one, except when applied to potatoes, always is."

George Mason University Adjunct Professor and Washington Post guest columnist Michael Shank also called for a name change in preparation of a totem pole installation in Anacostia.

It's unlikely a name change is in the future for the Redskins, at least if they have anything to say about it. General manager Bruce Allen said Thursday the team isn't considering a new name. "There's nothing that we feel is offensive," Allen said. "And we're proud of our history."

The Washington Post's Mike Wise writes that he is not optimistic that the team's star player, Robert Griffin III, would throw his weight behind "a problem that’s been plaguing Washington for decades: our football team’s ill-considered, objectionable, offensive, racist, totally unacceptable name":

[I] fear that Griffin is not that guy, and not just because he’ll be focused for the next few months on physical therapy. No young, dynamic leader of an NFL team is that guy. Pro players who take on controversial social debates are gone, replaced by athletes whose goal is to not offend — because that would mean fewer commercials, a loss of sponsors and, God forbid, a Q rating lower than Michael Jordan’s.



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