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Redskins Vow to Keep Name Despite Trademark Ruling

Stacy M. Brown | 6/23/2014, 3:05 p.m.
Before anyone thinks of creating, selling or distributing merchandise containing the Washington Redskins logo, team officials have issued a stern ...
Courtesy of the Washington Redskins via Instagram

Before anyone thinks of creating, selling or distributing merchandise containing the Washington Redskins logo, team officials have issued a stern warning: Not so fast.

“We’ve seen this story before and just like the last time, [the latest] ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo,” said Bob Raskopf, the trademark attorney for the football team.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team’s trademark registration on June 18 because officials at the federal agency called the Redskins name disparaging to Native Americans.

The ruling comes after years of lobbying by some in the Native American community to force the team to change its name. Momentum picked up last year when President Barack Obama also questioned the logic of team owner Daniel Snyder’s desire to stick with the moniker that many deem to be offensive.

Last month, 50 Democratic U.S. senators signed a letter urging Snyder and the NFL to change course. After the senators delivered the letter, some in the Native American community called for the name to be banned altogether, saying that it’s racist.

“Washington’s team owner Dan Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have claimed that using the ‘R-word’ epithet somehow honors native peoples, but it is quite the opposite,” said Ray Halbritter, the chief executive officer of the Oneida Indian Nation, a federally recognized tribe of Native Americans located in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“The R-word is a dictionary defined racial slur,” said Halbritter, 62.

This month’s ruling doesn’t mean that the team cannot continue using the Redskins name, but Snyder could lose the ability to protect the financial interests connected to its use.

It also means that if anyone decides to print the name on apparel or other material, the team could face great difficulty in pursing legal action against those who use it without expressed permission.

However, like the old but popular dentists commercials, four out of five Redskins fans agreed with the team.

“You can’t be serious,” said Phillip Hamilton, a longtime fan who lives in Capitol Heights, Maryland. “We are the Redskins and there’s nothing offensive about that,” said Hamilton, 47. Another longtime fan, Keisha Moore, said she’ll continue to fly the Redskins flag outside of her Northeast home and will paint her face in team colors when she attends games at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, this season.

“People do things for attention,” said Moore, 31. “No disrespect to the Native Americans, but I haven’t heard one reason, one explanation, as to how or why this is an issue. It’s not racist.”

Two other fans echoed Hamilton and Moore’s comments, but Jonathan Hightower, a self-proclaimed Baltimore Colts fan who lives in Oxon Hill, Maryland, said the team should change its name.

“I don’t like the Redskins, let me be clear. My heart broke after the Colts left Baltimore and I’m not much into the Ravens and I don’t watch the Redskins, but if Native Americans are saying the name is offensive, then it should be changed,” said Hightower, 62.