The United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins trademark registration, calling the football team’s name “disparaging to Native Americans.”….
Federal trademark law does not permit registration of trademarks that “may disparage” individuals or groups or “bring them into contempt or disrepute.” The ruling pertains to six different trademarks associated with the team, each containing the word “Redskin.”
Vargas clarifies what this means and doesn’t mean, along with reminding that this has happened before:
The ruling does not mean that the Redskins have to change the name of the team. It does affect whether the team and the NFL can make money from merchandising because it limits the team’s legal options when others use the logos and the name on T shirts, sweatshirts, beer glasses and license plate holders.
In addition, Native Americans have won at this stage before, in 1999. But the team and the NFL won an appeal to U.S. District Court in 2009. The court did not rule on the merits of the case, however, but threw it out, saying that the plaintiffs didn’t have standing to file it. The team is likely to make the same appeal this time. Team officials are expected to make a statement this morning.
The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council (via ENS) weighed in on the subject at its February meeting with this resolution:
Call the church’s members to remember their commitment to the Baptismal Covenant, which states that we will strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being; affirm various General Convention and Executive Council anti-racism resolutions of the past several decades, the House of Bishops pastoral letters of March 1994 and March 2006, that have declared that racism is a sin from which the church and its members should repent, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s May 2012 pastoral letter on the Doctrine of Discovery and Indigenous Peoples; affirm and declare solidarity with the December 2013 resolution by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, of which the Episcopal Church is a member, as being educational opportunities for the wider church and community; call on the high school organization that is the equivalent of the National Collegiate Athletic Association to endorse the policy instituted and enforced by the NCAA in regard to so-called “Native” names that promote negative stereotypes; call on other professional sports leagues and college and high school organizations to endorse the policy instituted and enforced by the NCAA in regard to so-called “Native” names that promote negative stereotypes; call on the National Football League (NFL) to endorse the policy instituted and enforced by the NCAA in regard to so-called “Native” names that promote negative stereotypes, and not to allow a major football event like the Super Bowl to occur in Washington, D.C.; encourage churches and dioceses to engage the issue of pejorative or disparaging team names in their local contexts when such occurrences exist within their local schools and community sports teams; renew a call to Episcopal Church clergy and lay leaders to participate in anti-racism training as a fundamental aspect of their ongoing Christian formation (AN023).
Jack Jenkins writes on some of the efforts of Christian denominations who oppose the name in Think Progress:
The UCC’s sentiment is shared by a growing number of churches and religious groups who are joining politicians, former team members, and the Native American community in a campaign to change the name of the Washington football team. Faith groups have voiced opposition to the name for decades, but recent months have seen a rapid uptick in faith-based activism around the issue. Last October, a group of more than 100 black clergy agreed to deliver sermons to their congregations opposing the name. A month later, 61 religious leaders from a variety of faith traditions sent a letter to team NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder calling the debate “a moral issue” and decrying the mascot as “offensive and inappropriate.”
UCC minister Rev. Graylan Hagler, who has been fighting the Redskins name for 20 years and was one of the main organizers of the letter and this weekend’s vote, said he considers the debate an extension of the larger struggle for civil rights.