The Washington Redskins organization was dealt a major blow in court Wednesday, as a federal judge upheld a previous decision to cancel the team's federal trademark registrations due to the notion that its nickname is offensive to Native Americans.
According to Ian Shapira of the Washington Post, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee affirmed a previous ruling by the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that determined the Redskins nickname could not be protected under the Lanham Act since it may be disparaging to some people.
Redskins president Bruce Allen later issued a statement on the team website regarding the ruling:
I am surprised by the judge's decision to prevent us from presenting our evidence in an open trial. 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.
While the ruling will prevent the organization from applying for trademarks related to the Redskins nickname on a federal level moving forward, it can still be protected by state law.
Also, per Max Smith of WTOP, the judge made it clear that only the trademark registration, and not the trademarks themselves, have been canceled by comparing it to Philadelphia 76ers legend Allen Iverson's famous rant about practice:
Attorney Jesse Witten believes the ruling is still a major win for those who oppose the nickname, according to Shapira.
"This is a huge victory," Witten said. "Getting this ruling from a U.S. District judge is a watershed event," Witten said.
Wednesday's decision undoubtedly supports the notion that there is growing opposition to the Redskins brand, but it is fair to say that there is no end in sight since the organization still has several options at its disposal.
With appeals, state protection and the federal government's inability to eliminate the existing trademark, the Redskins nickname will likely continue to exist until the NFL decides to take a firm stance against it.
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