A group of U.S. House members has offered a bill that would prohibit the term “Redskins” from being trademarked, as the debate over the NFL team’s name expands from the legal system and the court of public opinion to Capitol Hill.
Del. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) has authored the Non-Disparagement of American Indians in Trademark Registrations Act of 2013, which would cancel all existing federal trademarks using “Redskins” to refer to Native Americans and prohibit future trademarks as well. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) — a critic of the team’s name — is an original co-sponsor, along with Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.).
A Redskins spokesman said the team had no comment on the bill.
There is no guarantee that the measure will even receive a committee hearing in the House, much less a vote. But it comes at a sensitive time: Earlier this month in Alexandria, a three-judge panel on the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board heard arguments over whether the term Redskins should be considered a slur and therefore not worthy of trademark protection.
It could be a year, the Associated Press reported, before the judges issue a ruling in the case, which stems from a petition by five Native Americans. And even if the Redskins lost their trademark, they wouldn’t necessarily have to change their name. But it would be easier for other businesses and people to cut into the franchise’s profits by selling paraphernalia with the name on it.
Critics of the team’s name also spoke up during a forum last month at the National Museum of the American Indian, saying that the term is demeaning, and dismissing the franchise’s argument that the word is meant to honor Native Americans rather than disparage them.
For her part, Norton recently told the Hill newspaper that the Redskins “should consider” a new moniker. “I am a fan of the Redskins. I’m just not a fan of their name,” she said.
District Mayor Vincent Gray has also weighed in on the subject, albeit carefully.
“I would love to be able to sit down with the team … and see if a change should be made,” Gray said in January, though he later clarified that he simply meant the subject would likely be discussed if the Redskins were to move back to the RFK Stadium site, which is on federal land.