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Originally published Friday, June 20, 2014 at 5:07 PM

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Editorial: NFL owners must speak up about the Redskins name

NFL owners should be leading the fight to ditch the name of the Washington Redskins. This is not some arcane legal battle.


Seattle Times Editorial

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FOR generations, the United States operated a racial caste system that relegated black Americans to second-class legal and social status.

Purging the culture of Jim Crow took forever. Turns out, a variation of the contemptible theme persists within the National Football League.

Native Americans, including members of the Crow Nation, are deeply offended by the Washington Redskins, the name appended to the NFL franchise in 1933, and trademarked in 1967.

A name intended for hundreds of years as a slur has prevailed despite decades of legal challenges and protests against related logos and images, as well.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office weighed in for a second time on the use of the Washington Redskins name, canceling six trademark registrations. The agency’s appeals board found the name disparaging to Native Americans.

The conclusion was in the same spirit of a 1999 cancellation of trademark registrations for the Washington Redskins that brought Native Americans “contempt, ridicule and disrepute.”

This previous challenge, begun years earlier, officially ended with a federal appeals court reversal in 2003 that concluded no proof existed that the language and images were disparaging.

Wednesday’s Patent Office ruling heads down the same legal path that could forestall a final court decision for years. In the meantime, the offensive name and images remain in place.

The team’s owner Dan Snyder needs to be challenged by other franchise owners about the cost to the whole system. Hanging on to six uses of the Redskins name is a false economy.

The team’s cheerleaders began as the Redskinettes. Really?

Professional football is a national passion, and the industry has more invested in its fans, and the economic well-being of the whole enterprise, than any allegiance to the Washington football team or its name.

In May, 49 U.S. senators signed a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell protesting the continued use of the name. That was followed by another public protest by civil-rights and humanitarian organizations.

Quit using the names. This week, The Seattle Times banned the use of the name except in articles covering the controversy.

The NFL does not have the luxury of waiting for the courts to decide what is legally disparaging. The name is offensive. If it cannot be disposed of out of proper respect, then consider the business implications.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).



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