The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

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The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Washington’s Football Team Name Loses Trademark Protection

June 18, 2014 - Posted by Patrick McNeil

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) today cancelled six federal trademark registrations for the name of Washington’s football team, saying in a decision that the “registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered.”

The ruling was issued by the PTO’s Trial and Appeal Board in response to a case brought against the team by Amanda Blackhorse, a Navajo and psychiatric social worker.

“I applaud today’s decision by the Patent and Trademark Office regarding these divisive and harmful trademarks,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in a statement on Wednesday. “While this team can use whatever name or logo it likes, the government is not required to be complicit when a name has a long history of being an insult and a slur.”

In May, 50 senators wrote a letter to National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell, urging the team to change its name. That request was quickly denied, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D. Nev., continues to be outspoken on the issue.

“Today’s decision should spur the team ownership and the National Football League to seriously reconsider their position on this issue and to realize that they are on the wrong side of history. Many other athletic organizations, professional and amateur alike, have eliminated the use of offensive names, logos, and mascots without affecting the success of their teams or the loyalty of their fans,” Henderson said.

The Leadership Conference voted unanimously at its national board meeting in December 2013 for a resolution urging the team’s owner to change its offensive name.

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