The U.S. Patent office this week canceled six trademark patents for the Washington Redskins football team. The Trademark Trial and Appeals Board in their cancellation stated that the name Redskins is “disparaging to Native Americans” and cannot be trademarked under federal law that prohibits trademark protection on offensive or disparaging language.
Even though Native American groups have complained about the racist nature of the name for years, it was not until recently that the issue picked up national awareness. On May 21, 2014, several United States Senators sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell asking for a name change. The letter mentions the racist remarks of Donald Sterling and how the NBA took action against racism and bigotry and that the NFL should do the same. The letter states in part “The despicable comments made by Mr. Sterling have opened up a national conversation about race relations. We believe this conversation is an opportunity for the NFL to take action to remove the racial slur from the name of one of its marquee franchises.”
Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder has stated repeatedly that he will not change the team name. However his hand is definitely being forced by the Trademarks office ruling which states “We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be canceled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered.” The Trademark Trial and Appeals Board also canceled the name of the Redskinettes, the cheerleaders for the team.