Should The Washington Redskins Really Have To Change Their Name?

Image via dean bertoncelj/Shutterstock

Dust has been kicked up once again over the Washington Redskins choice of team name. The franchise owner, Daniel Snyder claims the term “redskin” has fallen out of the popular vernacular as a slur since the 1960s. The team even tried referencing a survey taken 10 years ago showing that a majority of Native Americans supported the name.

No dice.

In a recent 2-1 vote, the USPTO cancelled the Redskin’s federal trademark protection on the grounds that the team’s name and logo is disparaging to Native Americans given its historical use as a slur. Some believe the organization stands to lose millions as a result of this decision since people can now counterfeit merchandise without suffering recourse over federal patent law.

But don’t go printing out your own hats and jerseys just yet…

Monica Riva Talley, an attorney who is not directly involved with the case told ABC, “This decision does not mean that the Redskins trademark is no longer enforceable or that third parties will now be able to sell Redskins merchandise.”

Talley claims the team can still enforce “common law” trademark rights given its many decades of use since the organization started back in the ‘30s.


Didn’t the owner claim the term “redskins” wasn’t used as a slur since the 1960’s?

Either way, the team has already overcome the same USPTO ruling back in 1999 via the appeals process, and it seems confident it can be done again. Only it’s not 1999 anymore. The political climate has changed a great deal since then, and instances of bigotry and racism have been getting furious media attention which didn’t exactly exist back then. Plus, thanks to social media, these racially-charged instances now spread across the globe at light speed, demanding quick attention from the powers in charge.

Look at Donald Sterling. He was instantly fired after being caught saying some racially unsavory things to his biracial girlfriend. Granted, these are two totally different cases. One guy’s own racism is one thing, but the Redskins issue is more complicated. Sterling’s sharp words were his words, and they were confined to a tape. The onus fell on him alone. Rather than being a direct assault by one person that we can point at and ostracize, the Redskins issue is more subtle and shared by many. It’s more of an indicator of systemic racial insensitivity than anything else. And before you go ripping me down off of my high horse I’ll be the first to admit that I really didn’t see anything wrong with it for the longest time, nor do I believe that people who wear Redskins apparel or the organization are racist.

The problem here isn’t racism. It’s more of a massive failure of us putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

Consider this: What if the team was the Washington Blackskins, or Yellowskins? It wouldn’t even be a thought. The name would be changed with the snap of a finger and we’d all be back to tweeting about ‘Game of Thrones’ and Justin Bieber. So why do we insist that the term “Redskins” isn’t offensive? Like I mentioned above, the owners of the team claim that the team name hasn’t been used as a slur since the 1960’s but the Redskin’s organization began in the 1930’s. If for nothing else the name should be changed considering those 30 years that Native Americans had to watch people walk around with a popular slur on their shirts.

The only thing I could possibly think of that would help me relate would be to imagine being a minority in an alternate universe where decedents of people who raped and killed my ancestors less than a hundred years before were walking around with Minnesota “Small-Dicked White Boy’s” jerseys. I don’t think I’d like that at all. Though I am a bit curious as to what the logo would look like. Perhaps Corey Matthews from ‘Boy Meets World’ holding a carton of almond milk and a Northface fleece…

Point being, the possibilities for NFL team names are endless. Why have a team name that offends a group of people to the point where they are out protesting in the streets about it? Just change it already!