National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby sports a "Rethink" t-shirt. Photo from NCAI
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Washington NFL team plans to appeal decision in trademark case

The Washington NFL team plans to appeal a federal judge's decision to cancel its racist trademarks.

A group of young Native American activists convinced the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that the marks are offensive. The team then took the case to a federal court in Virginia.

In a 70-page decision issued on Wednesday, Judge Gerald Bruce Lee agreed with the Native youth. He ordered the trademarks to be canceled, finding them to be disparaging.

"The record contains several dictionaries defining 'redskins' as a term referring to North American Indians and characterizing 'redskins' as offensive or contemptuous," Lee wrote.

But the team isn't giving up. The case will now head to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We are convinced that we will win on appeal as the facts and the law are on the side of our franchise that has proudly used the name Washington Redskins for more than 80 years,” Bruce Allen, the team's president, said in a statement.

The National Congress of American Indians, on the other hand, called for an end to the controversy. President Brian Cladoosby reiterated the "harmful" nature of the team's racist mascot.

“It’s time to end the harmful legacy of perpetuating racist stereotypes that in no way honor our diverse cultural heritage," Cladoosby said in a press release. "The federal courts have recognized that the use of the R-word is offensive and degrading to our identity as Native people.”

Activist Suzan Shown Harjo, the president of The Morning Star Institute in Washington, D.C., has been fighting the mascot for decades. She called Lee's decision a complete victory for the petitioners in Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc.

"What a glorious day. Point by point we won everything. We won every single point," Harjo told The Nation. "The ruling recalls the way all the public officials called for the Confederate Flag to come down after the horrific church murders in Charleston."

"It is politicians and judges saying that racist symbols and hate speech are things of the past and in the public interest—not just the interests of Native people or African Americans—we don’t want to take them into the future," Harjo added.

Amanda Blackhorse, a member of the Navajo Nation who is the lead petitioner, celebrated as well. She is one of six young Native activists who took up Harjo's cause after the team appealed a prior ruling in the dispute.

"I am so excited, this is just a huge victory for not just the plaintiffs but for Native Americans as a whole," Blackhorse told The Arizona Republic. "All Native Americans can stand proud. This means the cancellations stand."

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Pro-Football, Inc. v. Blackhorse.

Get the Story:
Federal judge orders cancellation of Redskins’ trademark registrations (The Washington Post 7/9)
Redskins Lose Round in Battle Over Name (The New York Times 7/9)
Blackhorse wins another victory in fight against ‘Redskins’ name (The Navajo Times 7/9)
Navajo activist celebrates trademark ruling against Washington Redskins (The Arizona Republic 7/9)
‘My Teeth Hurt From Grinning’: Washington Football Brand Dealt Legal Blow (The Nation 7/8)
Judge upholds ruling against Redskins' trademark; team to appeal (ESPN 7/8)
Judge rules against Redskins trademark (Politico 7/8)
Court rules against Redskins trademark registration (CNN 7/8)
Redskins trademark ordered canceled by judge (AP 7/8)
Loudoun County official wants the Redskins to change their name — to the Loudoun Redskins (The Washington Post 7/8)

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