The United States Patent and Trademark Office made a strong statement against the use of Native American names and mascots for sports teams earlier this week in their 2-1 decision to cancel the Washington Redskins trademark on the basis that it is “disparaging to Native Americans.” This is not the first time this ruling has been made – in 1999 the panel also ruled to cancel the team’s trademark, however, the decision was overturned on a technicality.
Lawmakers applauded the decision made by the panel, many of whom had sent letters to the team last month urging Redskins owner Dan Snyder to change the team’s name. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a vocal opponent of the Redskins name, stated that he would not attend the team’s home games until the team’s name is changed.
Despite opposition to the name, Snyder has said that he will never change it, claiming that fans “understand the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means.” Snyder may have to rethink his comments if the trademark decision is upheld after appeal. The franchise and the NFL stand to lose millions of dollars in royalty fees from their largest moneymaker, merchandising.
It seems odd that many professional sports teams have been able to stay out of the fray during a time of sweeping changes amongst high school and college team names. These teams have large numbers of followers and fans, many of whom do not understand the historical context or stereotyping that goes along with their favorite team’s mascot, which spreads messages of ignorance and racism. It seems it is time for officials within pro sports to address the growing problem their organizations have, and come up with more appropriate team names that do not disparage groups of people.