Still Playing The Name Game

By Gary Norris Gray, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: October 11, 2009

CALIFORNIA (BASN) — The Washington Professional Football Team and its owners continue to fight upstream in a legal battle they will eventually lose.

Many colleges, universities, and high schools have already changed their Native American Indian nickname and logo while the Washington Football Club and the Cleveland Professional Baseball club refuses to change their name or logo.

Colleges, universities, and high schools do not want to infringe upon students’ Civil Rights.

These universities, colleges and high schools are not in favor of parents filing civil rights grievances because of their logos and name; but interestingly, these institutions are currently federally funded and are bound by Civil Rights laws.

Earlier this year, a three judge district panel told the Washington Football Club they will not have trademark rights to their name.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office told the District of Columbia team that their name was disparaging to Native American Indians. he name of the Washington Football Club came from when they were the Boston Braves.

The moniker was changed in 1933 by owner George Preston Marshall, who did not want his team to be confused with Major League Baseball’s Boston Braves.

The team moved four years later to the nation’s capital.

The 145-page ruling does not prevent the team from continuing to use the name and the related logos. This ruling could jeopardize the sales of sports shirts, hats, and other materials of the Washington Football Club.

Any store or sports department can now use the logo and name and gain profits, without the fear of Washington Football Club legally coming after them with the current protection of federal law.

This law will not take effect until the Washington Football Club has an opportunity to appeal the decision this winter. The team plans to use state patent laws to protect their logos and name of their franchise.

This could mean that The Washington Football Club could lose an estimated five million dollars. That is what is truly at the heart of this issue.

Multiple murders by gunfire in the streets of Washington D.C. influence the Washington Wizards NBA basketball club (Washington-Baltimore Bullets) to change their name in the middle 1990s.

The Washington Football Club could make millions even with their new name and new logo. Sports fans supporting this team would still buy their merchandise.

But then again, this was the first time a federal court has voted in favor of Native American interests on issues involving sports mascots and nicknames.

The 1946 federal trademark law, it states that names cannot be protected if they are “disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or disreputable.” The Washington Football Club fits this category.

The board also cited a survey commissioned by the plaintiffs who found that 46 percent of the general public considered the word offensive.

The Washington Football Club’s director for public relations, Mike McCall, stated that the name honors Native American Indians and has done so for 67 years.

The issue is, the name is too close to the “N” word which African Americans have been fighting for over 200 years. For many Native Americans the “R” word has the same effect.

The team colors and logo are not the real problem. Actually, the logo has been copied by other sports institutions like the Florida State University Seminoles athletic program and the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team.

The United States Supreme Court has been asked to make a ruling on whether the nickname is too offensive.

Samuel Alito Jr., then a former member of the United States Court of Appeals for the third Circuit, is now a member of the Supreme Court stated that such claims can be brought anytime by petition by plaintiff attorney and they have done so.

This political and social issue will not go away until the Washington Football Club chooses to (as Spike Lee would say) DO THE RIGHT THING!!!