After decades of allegations of racism, federal officials have stepped in to cancel the trademark registration for the Washington Redskins, saying the team's name is a slur that insults Native Americans.
On Thursday, the appeals board for the U.S. Patent and Trademark office sided with a group of Native Americans who brought the case, which called for revocation of the long-standing trademarks for the pro football team's name, Deadspin reported.
At least a dozen new trademark applications using the word redskins have been denied since 1992 because the office said they were "derogatory" and "offensive." But the Washington team's name had been grandfathered in despite complaints.
In her ruling, Administrative Trademark Judge Karen Kuhlke writes, "The recognition that this racial designation based on skin color is disparaging to Native Americans is also demonstrated by the near complete drop-off in usage of redskins as a reference to Native Americans beginning in the 1960s."
Kuhlke also cited polling that says nearly one-third of Native Americans believe the term redskins is disparaging—which means it would have offended approximately 626,095 out of 1,878,285 Native Americans in 1990.
The ruling doesn't have an immediate impact. The football team has a right to appeal and can continue using the trademark in the meantime.
An attorney for the Redskins, Bob Raskopf, issued a lengthy response to the ruling, saying in part:
"We've seen this story before, and just like last time, today's ruling will have no effect at all on the team's ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo.... We are confident we will prevail once again and that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's divided ruling will be overturned on appeal."
The Oneida Indian Nation of New York, which led a public campaign against the name in 2013, joined the National Congress of American Indians to issue a response to Wednesday's ruling, too. Noting that the call for a name change has been echoed by civil rights leaders, the president, and other prominent politicians, they said:
"If the most basic sense of morality, decency, and civility has not yet convinced the Washington team and the NFL to stop using this hateful slur, then hopefully today's patent ruling will, if only because it imperils the ability of the team's billionaire owner to keep profiting off the denigration and dehumanization of Native Americans."
Passing the peace pipe looks to be a long way off here.
In other news...
- Executions Resume: After a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma this April, states had held off on executions. Georgia and Missouri broke the unofficial moratorium with two executions in the past 24 hours. (via The Wall Street Journal)
- Dr. Oz Called to Carpet: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) grilled the television personality and health guru in Washington over deceptive advertising claims Oz is accused of making to promote weight-loss pills. (via Time)
- World Cup Attack: A suicide bomber drove a vehicle loaded with explosives into an open-air viewing venue in northern Nigeria on Tuesday, killing 14 people. The attack was in an area that has been plagued by Boko Haram attacks, including the kidnapping of 300 schoolgirls. (via Los Angeles Times)
- Under the Sea: President Barack Obama has designated a remote stretch of the Pacific Ocean as the world's largest ocean preserve. (via The Associated Press)
- Betrayal in Boston: A federal judge says it's "highly inappropriate" and "unduly prejudicial" to accuse the suspected Boston Marathon bomber of betraying the U.S. because he'd taken an oath to become a naturalized citizen. The judge is dismissing those allegations, which were a factor in prosecutors seeking the death penalty. (via The Boston Globe)
- Skid Row to Success: Los Angeles public schools have a program to help the county's 15,000 homeless students graduate and succeed. (via PBS NewsHour)
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