Democrat Rep. Mike Honda introduced a bill on Tuesday that would cancel the trademarks held by the Washington Redskins NFL franchise.
Native Americans sued – and won – to get the team’s trademark protections revoked in June; a decision which the team is appealing, and in the meantime the trademarks remain intact. This bill would retroactively revoke and cancel the team’s trademarks.
“It is unbelievable to me that, in the 21st century, a prominent NFL franchise is calling itself by a racial slur,” Honda said in a release. “Allowing trademark protection of this word is akin to the government approving its use. Removing that trademark will send a clear message that this name is not acceptable.”
The bill – a reintroduced version of legislation the California Democrat brought to the House floor two years ago – is the latest in the decades-long fight between the team and critics who say their name and mascot are offensive because of its history as a slur for Native Americans.
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Several government agencies have begun to put pressure on the team: the Federal Communications Commission is considering punishing broadcasters who name the team and the Justice Department is currently defending the Constitutionality of the Landham Act, the law that bars trademarking disparaging terms and was used to cancel the team trademarks in June.
In the last few years, the controversy has intensified, with protests and politicians weighing in on the team name. “We urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message as the NBA did: that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports. It’s time for the NFL to endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C., football team,” 49 legislators wrote in an open letter last May.
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters demonstrated their opposition to the name last November at the #NotYourMascot rally in Minneapolis; in December, Native Americans protested at the Redskins’ stadium, the largest protest by the group at the arena ever.
Even President Obama has come out against the moniker, telling the Associated Press in a 2013 interview, “I’d think about changing” the name.