A federal judge on Wednesday ruled to cancel the Washington Redskins’ trademark registration, affirming a previous ruling that the team’s nickname is offensive to Native Americans. However, neither ruling stops the NFL franchise from using the name.
The federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board last year voted 2-1 that the team is ineligible for trademark protection because the term Redskins is considered disparaging.
The Redskins claimed the board’s actions infringed on its free-speech rights and sued in federal court, which led to Wednesday’s decision by U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee’s to uphold that ruling.
The cancelation of the trademark does not go into effect until the team has exhausted all of its appeals, but even if it ultimately loses its trademark, the team can still legally use the name.
At worst, the Redskins simply will be unable to seek damages from trademark infringement from unauthorized merchandisers and will have a much more difficult time enforcingcopycat merchandise using its name and imagery from being sold.
“What have you really accomplished by the federal judge making his decision” asked former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann in an interview on Fox News Thursday. “You’ve taken away the name Redskins from the Redskins, but the point is, everyone else can use it then. So you really haven’t taken it out of society.”
When asked what would happen to his Hall of Fame plaque in the event the team’s nameis changed, Theismann applied his own logic and invoked Caitlyn Jenner.
“It brings up interesting debate,” he said. “Bruce Jenner versus Caitlyn Jenner. Bruce Jenner, they want to maybe change the medals from Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner because that is who he is now, or she is now. So I think you will always be there will be a time in history where whatever you were you are. Whatever you will be going forward that is what you will become.”
He continued: “I was and always will be a Washington Redskin. I’m very proud to have worn the uniform. I’m very proud to have represented the Native-American nations of our country, the Washington Redskin fans, the team itself.”
Incidentally, Theismann said he had polled many Native Americans and found that they were not uncomfortable with the team using the name.
Team president Bruce Allen on Wednesday released a statement saying he looked “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 franchise was established in 1932. The first legal action to void the team’s trademark began in 1992.