Here in Louisiana, we understand the closeness that a community can feel to their professional football team. We love our New Orleans Saints.
However, controversy currently surrounds the Washington Redskins. Many years ago when the Washington football team nicknamed themselves and trademarked the “Redskins” it prompted protest amongst many arguing that it insulted Native Americans. The controversy surrounding the team’s nickname has once again been revived as Native American groups have expressed their displeasure and outrage over the derogatory nickname. These groups have funded a poignant public relations campaign to highlight the insensitivity of the team’s nickname.
Both the team’s owner, Daniel Snyder, and Hall of Fame Coach, Joe Gibbs, have defended the nickname, arguing that it somehow symbolizes the pride and courage of the Native American culture.
Recently, the US Patent and Trademark Office canceled the Washington Redskin’s trademark as a result. There is no guarantee that the cancellation will stick as the team is fighting the decision. The trademark office made similar rulings against the team in the past but the organization appealed and won.
The Redskins argue this is not an issue of racism but rather an issue of trademark protection and that the company deserves the right to protect their trademark. Although it may be more of an intellectual property issue, the Redskins are now worried about the potential for a slue of fake Redskin’s merchandise entering the market as a result of this cancellation.
The ultimate question is if the US Patent and Trademark Office can cancel a company’s trademark because it is racially insensitive. If so, this could set the stage for more trademarks being canceled. Either way, we may not have the answer for months or even years as this will be a hard fought battle by both sides.