Native American sports team controversy, an update.

Well, the Trademark case (Blackhorse v Pro-Football Inc) ruling has come down finally and the patent and Trademark office has once again said that the term “redskins” is an offensive word and since it’s a disparaging term to Native American, no one can legally hold a trademark with the name. Many people are calling this a victory, but and this is a big but it seems likely that the NFL/Washington Redskins will be taking this through the appeals process and the name will still be trademarked during that time. This appeals process can take a long time, since it it with the Patent and Trademark and the last time when this case was looked at Harjo v Pro Football in 1992 it took until 2009 until Harjo’s case ended with it being dismissed on grounds of laches. This new case Blackhorse v Pro Football is basically the same case but with younger individuals involved so it can not be dismissed on laches. The Washington City Paper and other sites have the board’s opinion online if you want to read 170-some pages of legal documents.

What does this really mean? Well currently it means next to nothing as it seems likely to be going through the appeals process which would give it back trademark during that process. Even when the appeal is over and if upheld the team can still produce and use the logo and name it just means that individuals not involved with the team can use the name and logo for their own profit i.e. making knock off shirts, hats and jerseys. However who can tell how much counterfeit products will come into the marketplace with the NFL out there. If the financial impact of this is as great as some people are predicting then I think the NFL would pressure Dan Snyder to change the name.

It seems that it might take DC getting the Olympics in 2024 and Dan Snyder “volunteering” to build a new stadium at the site of RFK Stadium for the use of the football team after the Olympics and the NFL giving him a Super Bowl in DC. Even if these requirements aren’t met it seems like the team will eventually become the Warriors and go to the spear logo they used from 1965-69 then again as an alternate logo in 2002, but it seems highly unlikely that there would be a full blown new look for the team. This way the colors stay the same and the only real change that will be needed is to rewrite lyrics for the fight song.


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