Redskins clear to sue Native Americans -- for now

A Washington Redskins helmet is carried by a player on Sept. 21, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pa. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty)
A Washington Redskins helmet is carried by a player on Sept. 21, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pa.

The long-simmering controversy over the Washington Redskins team name continued on Friday when a federal judge decided the NFL franchise could continue suing five Native Americans, according to the Associated Press.

Yes, you read that right: For now, the Redskins – whose name everyone from President Obama to Sen. John McCain call offensive -- can move forward with a suit against a group of Native Americans who take umbrage with the term.

The group, led by social worker Amanda Blackhorse, filed a petition back in 2006 against the name, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office responded this June, ruling that six Redskins trademark registrations should be canceled. Once the USPTO gave its ruling, the team went after the five individuals in court.

Yet Judge Gerald Bruce Lee met with lawyers from both sides in Alexandria, Virginia on the validity of the lawsuit, and he concluded that dismissing the Redskins suit would be unprecedented. Lee is expected to issue a formal written ruling at a later date on whether the lawsuit can proceed.

The Redskins argue against the patent board’s decision with interesting logic, saying the team name wasn’t offensive when the trademarks were registered, between 1967 and 1990. For now, the team’s trademark is in place.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Blackhorse explained her reasoning for filing the petition, which stemmed from an experience she had at a Redskins game in 2005.

"These fans were very aggressive and they were very rude and very disrespectful, very racist and hostile, and just because we simply stood there and held a sign saying we don’t agree with Native American mascots. I also saw the way that they dress — the red face, the feathers. That’s basically mockery of our culture. That opened my eyes to all of this." 

The debate over the Redskins name seemed to reach a fever pitch last month when “The Daily Show” aired a controversial segment pitting ardent Redskins fans who seemingly saw no issue with the franchise name against Native Americans that did.

Meanwhile, the FCC has recently said that they may ban the team name from being used during television broadcasts.

What’s in a name?

Oct. 4, 201111:11