I’m usually the guy railing against an overly PC culture. In my view, when we become too afraid to step on other people’s toes and obsess over whether or not everything we say or do will offend someone else, we become soft and get distracted from the deeper issues. When it comes to the ‘Redskins’, however, I find myself firmly in the name change camp.
Why? Because Redskins is a blatant racial slur. Could you imagine if team called the San Antonio “Wet Backs” took to the field? We’d all be up in arms (or at least I’d hope we’d all be up in arms). I apologize for using that horrendously offense term, but a point needed to be made. The fact is that “Redskins” is also a derogatory term, which is why it shouldn’t be used as a sports team name.
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Court rules against ‘Redskins’ and for Native Americans
Sure, many of us aren’t offended by the term, but that probably has something to do with the fact that we are not Native Americans. Further, because the Native American population is so small, and also isolated, racism against them is not center stage in the public mind, like racism against African Americans and Latinos. Historically speaking, however, the term “redskins” carries a very negative connotation.
Indeed, this is why the United States patent office has revoked the trademark. Following a complaint by Amanda Blackhorse, herself a Native American, the patent office looked into the matter and ruled that the term is disparaging to Native Americans and thus is now eligible for protection.
In practical terms, this may force the Washington Redskins to change their team name. If the team cannot trademark its name, it will become very easy for people and companies to use the team name without the team’s permission. “Counterfeit” jerseys and team memorabilia could become all but legal. Further, this ruling could provide ammo for future court cases in civil courts.
The team is appealing the ruling, however, and successfully had a similar ruling overturned a decade ago. Until the appeal is completed, the name will remain trademarked. Now, however, public option appears to be swinging against the team.
As for other names, such as the Florida State Seminoles or the Fighting Sioux, why not just leave it up to the tribes to decide? They are effectively an organization with autonomous legal standing. If anyone should own the trademark to tribal names, it should be the tribes themselves. And if the tribes are okay letting their name be used, then so be it. If not, well it’s their autonomous choice.