Do you find the term "Redskins" to be disparaging?
Some people in Los Angeles would probably shrug at the use of that phrase, but others would be horrified.
Sports nicknames and mascots that offend American Indians (the Washington Redskins are an NFL team) have shown surprising staying power. For at least two decades, people have been arguing that they're insensitive and outdated, but traditions died hard in professional sports and many teams have resolutely refused to change.
Depending on an upcoming decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, though, the Redskins might not have much of a choice.
That is because a group of American Indians has brought a case before the board, asking that the trademark protection for the term "Redskins" be rescinded. The plaintiffs argue that the term is disparaging is offensive, and such terms are not allowed to be trademarked.
Officials for the Redskins have disagreed, saying the moniker "honors" American Indians.
Interestingly enough, back in 1999, the Board did rescind trademark protection for the Redskins, but that decision was overturned on a technical flaw.
As you can guess, much of the outcome of this case will come down to what is considered "disparaging." Although most people have an understanding of what the term "disparaging" means, past trademark decisions lead us to believe that courts have a higher threshold for what counts as disparaging than most individuals do.
So, back to the question we asked initially, but now with a twist: Do you think the term "Redskins" is disparaging in the conventional sense? What about the sense in which it is used in trademark law?
Source: The Associated Press, "Trademark judges to hear new case against Redskins name," March 6, 2103
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