October 02, 2003

A U.S. District Court has overturned the decision to strip the Washington Redskins of their trademark. A U.S. Patent and Trademark Office panel ruled in 1999 that it was a violation of the Lanham Act, which prohibits the registration of marks that are "disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or disreputable."

posted by rcade to football at 12:23 PM - 25 comments

calling legal experts, what further avenues can be pursued by the plaintiffs to seek another reversal?

posted by garfield at 12:28 PM on October 02, 2003

Decisions of district courts can be appealed to geo-appropriate Court of Appeals (I think DC is 1st or 2nd but not sure) and from there to Supreme Court. However, even if appeal is filed, court (unlike at the district level) does not have to agree to hear the challenge.

posted by billsaysthis at 01:05 PM on October 02, 2003

If the Redskins are not "disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or disreputable," what the hell is?

posted by wfrazerjr at 01:51 PM on October 02, 2003

The Fighting Whities?

posted by garfield at 02:06 PM on October 02, 2003

It appears the appeal was primarliy overturned because their sample size was not indicative of the claim of waide-spread opinion on the name from Native Americans; and that they should have brought this up sooner. How litigious. Supreme Court won't hear this crap. Well I'd be surprised. Only the court of public opnion will be able to enact any genuine change. This stuff is regulated in the marketplace people - stop buying their shit. Simple.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 03:13 PM on October 02, 2003

Actually, the main criticism of their case was that the sample was flawed, not just in scope but in method, failing "to test participants’ view of the term ‘redskins’ in the context of (the team’s) services." Q: Is the term 'redskin' disparaging? A: Yes. Q(not asked): Are you offended by the Washington Redskins? A(not given): I love that team. The judge also denounced the earlier judgement as flawed, noting "that the appeals board finding that the term disparaged Native Americans was flawed because it “is supported by inferential fact-based judgments, unsubstantiated with concrete evidentiary proof.”

posted by garfield at 05:07 PM on October 02, 2003

The judges, just like in the last case, are probably Redskins season ticket holders.

posted by billsaysthis at 08:21 PM on October 02, 2003

I think Washington should be able to keep their offensive nickname, given that they allow me, as a white male, to treat them as the Redskins have been historically been treated here. So give me your house and your land, and we're moving your asses to Omaha.

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:22 PM on October 02, 2003

Could they just regulate little Danny Snyder's overblown ego as being contemptuous and offensive? off topic: Someone tell me how the hell does Washington stay under the cap? So many different signing over the past 3 or 4 years. I could swear that Tagliabue (a DC native, no pun intended) is cutting them some slack with the cap.

posted by GoDizzGo at 11:18 PM on October 02, 2003

GoDizzGo, I don't like Snyder any more than a non-Redskin fan might, but he knows business and uses the cap very, very well. The Skins will face some trouble in the coming years, but they have a "plan in place" and I have no doubt that it can work. That little bastard is learning. As for this case, Weedy points to one thing mentioned in the opinion, but there is slightly more to it that I think gets overlooked by glancing at the surface. And let me start by saying that even as a Redskins fan, I don't really care what happens here. If people are pissed, change the name. It's worth something in tradition, but not enough. Just change the damn thing and get it over with. Now, I think we can agree that the Washington franchise wasn't looking to disparage anyone when they came up with their nickname. In fact, as is mentioned in the opinion of the court, they were naming the team in part to honor their head coach, a Native American himself. (Page 12) Over time the term has come to mean different things. The important thing the court found was that over the last forty years the term Redskins has come to mean nearly one thing and one thing only… a football team. Frankly, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it used in any other way. (Pages 36-38) So we have a term that was meant to honor, or to convey a positive spirit that a franchise wanted associated with their club, that over time has come to represent that club and basically that club alone. The make-up of that word and a portion of its past however, are filled with negativity and people get pissed at it. Modern sensibilities tell us that it is a phrase that should not be used. That in a nutshell is why I don’t really care if they change the name or not. If they don’t, it’s not because they’re heartless bastards out for bigotry, but rather it's because they are the Redskins. If they do change it, it’ll end up making people less pissed... which is nice. I just want to keep the song. The song stays. And yes, it’s filled with “un-PC” terms like “scalp em” and crap, but it’s a damn catchy tune and it’s one of the only ones like it in professional sports. Anyone know of another franchise that has a song like Hail To The Redskins? Do they sing it before and after every game and after every score?

posted by 86 at 07:58 AM on October 03, 2003

nice 86.

posted by garfield at 09:00 AM on October 03, 2003

... over the last forty years the term Redskins has come to mean nearly one thing and one thing only… a football team. Frankly, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it used in any other way. As a Dallas native and Cowboys fan, I grew up thinking of the Redskins only in that manner too. But when you read about how strongly some Native Americans feel about these mascots, and why they feel that way, it's tough to care more about our arbitrary sports traditions than their sentiments. The "redskin" term is still being used by some racists. From a news story:

The suit alleges that students have hurled racial epithets at David since he was in kindergarten, with students repeatedly calling him a "savage Indian," "stupid Indian" and "stupid redskin," and that teachers and administrators often ignored the harassment.
Also, the use of Native American mascots -- and the tomahawk chop and similar behavior it inspires -- causes strong distress for some of these people:
... a man I know took his son to a high school football game. His son was only five the team was called the Indians. The opposing team took a life size doll and dressed it up like an Indian. They put a noose around this doll's neck they hung it from tree and began screaming and chanting kill the Indians, anhilate the Indians, scalp the Indians, Kill all the Indians, this boy, who was native american began to cry looking up at his father he said daddy they are going to kill us. Daddy we are going to die, daddy we need to get out of here. Some people say that they honor Native American's by naming sporting teams after them. How is this an honor? And if you treat every race equally in this state then what other race would this State Board of Education choose to honor in such away?
I don't see how it's defensible to keep calling a team the Redskins.

posted by rcade at 09:15 AM on October 03, 2003

rcade, the best point that can be made is your first. If they feel that strongly, I'm all for changing it. The court says that the survey was not enough and I get that point as well, because we can't have every small pissed off (rightly or wrongly) group taking on every and any trademark. I understand both points and am more than willing to sacrifice a tradition if it makes folks less upset. My point on the term and it's use was in error or at leaast a misunderstanding. From my experience, I've never heard it used in degradation. But the court says that it's use is mostly associated with the football team. As for the mascots and the chants. The logo in question is a rather regal, nobel, proud image. I don't think it would cause distress, but I don't get to make those calls. And Redskins fans have never done the chop. I hate it. I suppose the aforementioned song could be the point here, and I can't argue that some of it is bad... But it is literally about proud people battling hard for the team and the city. It's clearly not meant with ill-intent, for what it's worth.

posted by 86 at 09:26 AM on October 03, 2003

Ok, I'm going to weigh in here. I'm an Indian, a full member of the Assiniboine tribe. I grew up on an Indian reservation in nothern Montana. I hate the term redskin, I hate that fucking Cleveland Indian face. Why not the Cleveland Negroes with a mascot in that old blackface style, it's just as offensive. It's just indictive of how blind Americans are to what happened and is still happening to Native Americans. Diabetes, alcoholism, stark poverty, really, who the hell cares if some team is called the Redskins.

posted by patrickje at 11:57 AM on October 03, 2003

Thanks for weighing in, patrickje. Every Indian/native American I have spoken with on this issue feels the same way you do. The cause needs a higher profile, though. I get the feeling that most Americans don't think that the offensive Indian names/logos are negatively affecting that many people.

posted by cg1001a at 12:10 PM on October 03, 2003

patrickje, I appreciate hearing your point of view. Sincerely, thank you. I don't have enough first-hand knowledge....But don't stoop to broad generalizations.... "It's just indictive of how blind Americans are to what happened and is still happening to Native Americans. Diabetes, alcoholism, stark poverty, really, who the hell cares if some team is called the Redskins." I'm not even American, but I felt a twinge when I read that.

posted by garfield at 11:45 AM on October 06, 2003

garfield, I am American and I winced when I read patrickje's comments because they seem so true. Casinos aside, the bulk of Native Americans who've tried to perpetuate their communities rather than 'melting' live lives I wouldn't wish on Rush Limbaugh.

posted by billsaysthis at 01:39 PM on October 06, 2003

I know more of the plight of Native Canadians, and it saddens me greatly to hear horror stories on the news. How the Canadian government makes tons of cash from hydroelectricity, created by "re-locating" tribes from their ancestral lands. And that's just a recent example. Believe me, the transgressions do not go unnoticed, or unremembered. But I've also heard stories of Casino money going to a select few while the rest of a reservation's population wallow in poverty and addiction. What happened in the past was deplorable. But this 'still happening' victimhood of the present....I'm not comfortable with. Though, I'm not too familiar with what is going on state-side, headway is being made with the Canadian government. Nothing will ever be enough, IMO, because the land will never be returned. However, I am of the opinion that its about friggin time, and that real progress is made through empowerment.

posted by garfield at 02:13 PM on October 06, 2003

It's just funny that most people think of Indians and casinos, when most tribes are buried in such backwater locations (montana, south dakota, new mexico, oklahoma), what does it matter if a casino is opened, it's not like anyone will come. There are tribes that are making money but they are the exception not the rule. Part of the blame has to go on the Indians as well, I'm guilty of this. Instead of staying to help, the ones who can usually scamble out of the reservation at the first opportunity, vowing never to return. But to think that it's not still happening is basically ignoring the problem. Really, look into how the government helps Indians, the rampant corruption and incompetence of the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs), the FBI's long history of messing in tribal affairs, especially where mineral rights are concerned. But don't mind the Indians, most of us live in flyover country not even near interstates, we're easy to ignore.

posted by patrickje at 05:54 PM on October 06, 2003

thanks for the link, patrickje. I'm always looking for alternative news sources. Since I don't have a moral authority on the subject, I'll step down. But I'll say this, the government really won't help unless their hand is forced...no matter how bad the conditions. This is America, afterall, and if there's no money in it, good luck.

posted by garfield at 08:27 AM on October 07, 2003

...and for some reason I want to shake my head and wag my finger, yelling "You don't know me. You don't know where I'm from!"....but that would be unnecessary at this point.

posted by garfield at 09:20 AM on October 07, 2003

I want to apologize for the last comment, I have a bit of chip on my shoulder, and Sportfilter is not the appropriate venue to unload.

posted by patrickje at 11:37 AM on October 07, 2003

I hope you continue to offer your input, because that is vital to increasing awareness. minus the chip would be nice.....but whatever works.

posted by garfield at 12:15 PM on October 07, 2003


posted by lilnemo at 01:01 PM on October 07, 2003

Spofi: Appropriate venue to unload!

posted by garfield at 03:10 PM on October 07, 2003

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