The Washington Redskins have made clear that they have no interest in changing their team name, no matter how many people say they’re offended by it. But they’re now facing a renewed legal challenge that could change their way of thinking.
On Thursday a group of Native Americans will go before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to argue that the team should lose federal trademark protection for the term “Redskins” because law prohibits trademarking disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or disreputable names. Many Native Americans say the term “Redskins” is a racial slur, although the team says there’s nothing offensive about it.
If this sounds familiar, that’s because it has happened before: A different group of Native Americans has previously made the same challenge, but that challenge was thrown out not because the word “Redskins” was ruled not to be offensive, but because the people who brought the challenge were ruled not to have standing to make the challenge.
In fighting off the previous challenge, the Redskins said the franchise had spent “millions of dollars . . . promoting, advertising, and protecting its mark.” That shows how valuable the ability to trademark the team name is to the Redskins.
And if the Redskins were to lose their trademark, they could lose a fortune in merchandising because they would no longer have the exclusive right to sell Redskins apparel. That might be what it takes to make Dan Snyder reconsider whether he’s willing to change the team’s name.