Opinion: Use of Indians as mascots causes damage
"A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving the trademark for the Washington Redskins. That decision left in place a lower court ruling stating that the plaintiffs had waited too long to bring a case for trademark cancellation – thus triggering the doctrine of laches, under which suits brought too late are barred. Around the same time, a federal judge in North Dakota prohibited the State Board of Education from immediately retiring the Fighting Sioux moniker of the University of North Dakota.

But neither controversy is truly over, and the underlying issue of racialized representations is likely to be discussed and litigated for years to come. With respect to the Washington Redskins, a different set of plaintiffs – and an entirely new case, filed in August 2006 – is waiting in the wings to challenge the trademark on the grounds of its disparaging content. In the UND case, the judge imposed a temporary restraining order on the ground that the state board could not unilaterally alter the deadline without ensuring the tribes' participation. A new hearing has been set.

The legal cases against racially-hostile mascots can be complicated, raising issues related to both intellectual property rights and the First Amendment. Yet the ethical case against such representations could hardly be clearer."

Get the Story:
Sonia K. Katyal: The Fight Over the Redskins Trademark and Other Racialized Symbols (FindLaw 12/7)

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