Redskins Go to Court to Overturn Unfavorable Trademark Decision

The Washington Redskins are continuing their fight to retain the use of the “Redskins” name by filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. They seek to overturn a recent ruling by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that voided the team’s trademark registration because the name “Redskins” denigrates Native Americans.

According to the Washington Post, Bob Raskopf, a trademark attorney for the Washington Redskins, said that the previous trademark trial decision was “flawed” and “ignored federal case law and the weight of the evidence.” The new trial provides the Washington Redskins with an opportunity to introduce fresh evidence to support their contention that the Redskins name is indeed a positive symbol.

The Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has argued consistently that "Redskins" is a noble name that celebrates Native Americans and that the team wears the Redskins logo as a "badge of honor." Snyder told the Post last year that “Washington Redskins is more than a name we have called our football team for over eight decades. It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect -- the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans.”

Amanda Blackhorse, one of the five Native Americans who brought the previous complaint against the Washington Redskins and won the favorable ruling, believes the team “is doomed to fail.” She contends that because the name is considered a slur, “Whatever ‘evidence’ the team relies upon has already been rejected time after time after time by the patent office.”

Yet, Snyder argues that the team has never engaged in behavior that is “disparaging” to Native Americans. Significantly,  Snyder has established the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. The foundation “tackles the many troubling realities facing so many tribes across the nation,” the Washington Redskins official site states. The new foundation has purchased winter coats and heavy machinery for tribes, and art from them.

Moreover, the team has pushed back against the swell of criticism by establishing the Redskins Facts website. The page attempts to explain just why the Redskins name, trademark, and logo is one in which the team is proud. The page states that “Redskins epitomizes all the noble qualities we admire about Native Americans—the same intangibles we expect from Washington’s gridiron heroes on game day. Honor. Loyalty. Unity. Respect. Courage.”
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