An Aug. 12 Metro article incorrectly said that a spokesman for the Washington Redskins did not respond to three telephone calls seeking comment on a legal challenge to the team name. The spokesman, Karl Swanson, referred a reporter to lawyer Robert L. Raskopf, who did not respond until Saturday, after a story about the legal challenge had been published.
Indians Fight Redskins Name
Saturday, August 12, 2006; 4:10 PM
A group of Native Americans filed a new legal challenge yesterday to trademarks for the name and logo of the Washington Redskins, saying the team's name is a racial slur that should be changed.
A petition filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by six Native Americans represents a second chance for Indians to challenge the football franchise's name. The team prevailed in an earlier fight when a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the plaintiffs waited too long under trademark law to object. This time, the complaint was filed with a new set of plaintiffs.
In the petition, the six Native American activists say that the football franchise's name breaks a 1946 federal law prohibiting the government from registering a trademark that disparages any race, religion or other group.
"The term 'redskin' was and is a pejorative, derogatory, denigrating, offensive, scandalous, contemptuous, disreputable, disparaging and racist designation for a Native American person," the complaint says.
Jillian Pappan, 19, of Sioux City, Iowa, one of the six challengers, equated the name Redskin with the "N-word." "You're not going to call me a redskin, and they shouldn't be allowed to have that as a copyright," she said.
Washington Redskins spokesman Patrick Wixted said the team was aware of yesterday's filing.
Robert L. Raskopf, the lawyer representing the team in the case, said today, "We're confident that we will prevail on the merits."
"The highest court that considered it on the merits, the claim that the name disparages Native Americans, found no evidence of that. I don't think it's going to matter who brings the claim," Raskopf said. "The bottom line is there is no evidence to support that claim."
The emotional issue has a long and winding legal trail dating back 14 years. In a similar petition filed in 1992, activists argued that the team's name and feather-wearing Indian mascot trivialized Indian victims of genocide and those forced off their land by settlers and U.S. soldiers. In 1999, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board agreed and ruled that the team had no right to trademark its name.
But Pro-Football Inc., the corporation that owns the Redskins, appealed the trademark panel's decision in U.S. District Court. Although acknowledging "difficult relations" between Anglo Americans and Native Americans, attorneys argued that the beloved hometown team has changed the connotation so the team's name is now "powerfully positive."
In 2003, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled in the team's favor and threw out the patent panel's decision to cancel six highly lucrative Redskins trademarks. She did not address whether the name was insulting but concluded that the activists waited too long to challenge the trademarks, which were first granted in 1967.
Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia sent the case back to District Court without ruling on the substance of whether the name was derogatory. That case is still pending.