Justice Department defends decision to strip Redskins' trademark

Tuesday March 24th, 2015

The U.S. Department of Justice defended the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's decision to revoke the Washington Redskins' trademark on their nickname in a document filed in federal court Monday.

The franchise filed a federal lawsuit after the trademark board stripped it of federal trademark protections on the grounds that the nickname and logo are "disparaging to Native Americans." The suit claims that the law the board based its decision on "effectively chills First Amendment free speech rights."

"Not only do trademarks function only minimally as a vehicle for expression, but trademark registration also involves the necessary participation of the government in approving that registration, which confers relaxed First Amendment review even when combined with the speech of a private party," the Justice Department's filing read, according to The Washington Times.

• ​Native American group launches anti-'Redskins' telephone campaign

Opposition to the team's nickname is nothing new but has increased dramatically in recent years.

• New Yorker cover mocks 'Redskins' nickname

A SI poll in September found that only 25 percent of fans thought the name should be changed. 

NFL broadcasters used "Redskins" 27 percent less often during telecasts this season, according to a Deadspin study. In September, the FCC said it would consider punishing a Washington radio station for using the nickname. In December it announced that station would not be punished because the name is not profane.

• BARSHOP: Youth leagues also wrestling with Redskins nickname

A senator from Washington state also announced she would introduce legislation to strip the NFL of its tax-exempt status as a response to the league's support of the nickname.

Washington owner Dan Snyder infamously told USA Today in 2013, "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."

- Dan Gartland

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