On Wednesday, June 20, the United States Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the trademark registration for the Washington Redskins, because Federal trademark law does not permit registration of trademarks that may “disparage” individuals or groups or “bring them into contempt or disrepute.”
This is not the first time the trademark has come into question, but our hope is that the ruling will lead the Washington football team owners to reconsider their stance that a stereotype can be a source of pride, and the claim that the name and logo honor Native Americans.
Over twenty years ago, when the team trademark was first formally challenged, the National Museum of the American Indian was in its infancy. In the time since, we have contributed to the national discussion of the persistence of stereotypes and misconceptions in our society, and helped to educate thousands of visitors about Native cultures. Your support as a member has helped us to make a difference.
While the team currently insists that this ruling will have no effect on the right to use the its name and logo, this new development adds to the dialogue and builds on the momentum in recent years to encourage the team to change its name. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s specific finding that the name of the team is a disparaging reference to Native Americans puts added pressure on the team and ownership to reconsider the team name.
We will continue to follow the developments in this important case, while maintaining our position that the cultivation of painful stereotypes should not be celebrated, but rather corrected and replaced with the celebration of real Native American people, their cultures, and all they have contributed to shape our country and our world.
Kevin Gover (Pawnee)