June 18, 2014

Why Redskins lost trademark decision

Board rules for dictionary over Redskins’ feeble attempts to defend team name

By Robert McCartneyBy a 2 to 1 ruling, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board provided a thoughtful, detailed, authoritative repudiation of all the main arguments that Snyder and the NFL have used to defend the name.

It did so after hearing the NFL’s high-priced lawyers make their best case in a public hearing. It studied the issue for 15 months. It wrote a 99-page opinion (plus 78 pages of appendixes) carefully weighing the pros and cons.

After “due caution” and “a most careful study of all the facts,” as required by law, the panel delivered a resounding rebuff.

Snyder: We don’t mean to insult American Indians. Our intent is to honor them.

Judges: Your “alleged honorable intent” is irrelevant. What matters is what Native Americans think about the word.

Snyder: The word has a separate and independent meaning, which isn’t offensive, when it’s used to describe the football team.

Judges: “There is no case in our review where a term found to be a racial slur in general was found not to be disparaging when used in the context of specific services.”
7 Things That Convinced The U.S. Patent Office To Cancel The Redskins Trademark

By Judd LegumThe landmark decision by the U.S. Patent Office, first reported by ThinkProgress, canceled the trademark “Redskins” for Washington’s NFL franchise. Ultimately, the decision hinged on whether the term Redskins “disparages Native American persons.” The law prohibits trademarks on disparaging terms. So the Native Americans challenging the trademark needed to convince the office: 1. The term was still referring to Native Americans, and 2. It was disparaging toward Native Americans. Here are seven things that persuaded the Patent Office:

1. This picture of cheerleaders
2. This picture of the marching band
3. This press guide
4. Its similarity to other racial slurs
5. The dictionary definition of Redskins
6. The opposition by the National Congress of American Indians
7. Letters of protest from Native Americans
60 Years Of Shocking Redskins Headlines

A sampling of violent wordplay.

A typical example from the NY Times, 1955:

These headlines don't prove that people considered "Redskins" a slur. But they do show the stereotype-filled environment in which the Washington team operated. There's a strong implication that people thought "redskins" were violent savages who went on the warpath and scalped people.

No one uses "Redskin"

A broader, less legalistic view of why the Redskins lost:

Washington Redskins apologists are on every wrong side of history–and a slur

It's not a matter of whether the Washington football team's name will get changed, but when. Fans need to stop making excuses

By Dave Rappoccio
It's not a matter of whether the Washington football team's name will get changed, but when.

Because language, it turns out, is not immutable. Society changes, people mature, and what a word might mean today changes tomorrow. Whatever it might have once meant–and there are plenty of good arguments that it was never any sort of honor–"Redskins" is now a slur, regardless of interpretations back in the '30s, which wasn't exactly the most racially accepting period in American history.

Think about it: who uses the term "Redskins" to refer to anything or anyone but the football team? Do you hang out with people who walk around talking about the "Redskin reservations" or "Redskin casinos"? No one uses this term in conversation casually about anything other than the Washington football team, because it’s viewed as racist to many people. So why is it okay to make it the name of a major sports team?

All those in favor of the word only see the name as that of a football team. In that tunnel vision, the word is fine. But the word has real meaning outside of football. Hurtful meaning. Most people, they aren't thinking about the bad connotations. They are only thinking football, so to many loyal fans, this is tradition that deserves to be preserved. But context matters. And the context here, whether you like it or not, is that this word is offensive.

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