A federal judge upheld the cancellation of the Washington Redskins trademark on Wednesday, a legal victory for opponents who want the nickname changed.
“I am surprised by the judge's decision to prevent us from presenting our evidence in an open trial,” Washington team president Bruce Allen said in a statement. “We look forward to winning on appeal after a fair and impartial review of the case. We are convinced that we will win because the facts and the law are on the side of our franchise that has proudly used the name Redskins for more than 80 years.”
The Redskins will not lose the trademark until appeals have run their course through the legal system, but they can still be allowed to use the “Redskins” nickname if they seek protection under state law.
The team is headquartered in Ashburn, Va., and plays its home games at FedExField in Landover, Md.
The team filed a lawsuit last August contesting the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decision two months earlier to remove six federal trademark registrations on the team's name.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office said then that the nickname is “disparaging to Native Americans” and cannot be trademarked under federal law that prohibits trademark protection on offensive or disparaging language.
The Redskins wanted the appeal ruling thrown out, citing infringement on their First Amendment rights, with Redskins counsel adding that losing the trademark would be “severe and manifold” for the team.
The decision for another appeal to the The Trademark Trial and Appeals Board failed.
The original lawsuit was brought by plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse, who sued the team and claimed that the name “Redskins” disparaged Native Americans. She said the nickname is a racist slur that never should have been trademarked in the first place. Washington has filed for trademarks on "Redskins" four times since 1967.
Team officials, including owner Daniel Snyder, have been under pressure for years from activist groups and politicians to change the name, but Snyder holds that the name is a term of pride, honor and respect and has vowed to never change the nickname as long as he is the owner.
Attorneys for Native Americans who want the name changed say a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court may have bolstered the chances of the appeal ruling being upheld. The Court said last month that Texas did not violate the First Amendment when it banned specialty license plates bearing the Confederate flag.
- Scooby Axson