NAJA supports U.S. Patent Office's cancelation of Washington NFL team trademark registration

Posted by Rebecca Landsberry on 06/18/2014

NORMAN, Okla. -- The United States Patent and Trademark Office canceled six Washington National Football League trademark registrations for team names and designs as part of the case Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc.   

In alignment with the the Native American Journalists Association's stance against the use of Native mascots, NAJA supports the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decision, which stripped the Washington NFL franchise of its trademark protection on Wednesday, stating that the team name is "disparaging toward Native Americans."

This is the opinion NAJA has held on the term for more a decade.

Image provided by David Bernie

NAJA urges the media industry to realize the harmful nature of this racial slur and adopt policies that encourage reporters and staff to refrain from using it in print and on air out of respect for the country's First Americans.

Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation Representative and Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians issued a joint-statement on the issue earlier today.

"The U.S. Patent Office has now restated the obvious truth that Native Americans, civil rights leaders, athletes, religious groups, state legislative bodies, members of Congress and the President have all echoed: taxpayer resources cannot be used to help private companies profit off the promotion of dictionary-defined racial slurs.” 

The cancelation follows the 1992 Harjo v. Pro Football, Inc. case to the TTAB where Native American plaintiffs established that the NFL name, “disparages Native American persons, and brings them into contempt, ridicule, and disrepute.” However, the NFL filed a successful appeal to a federal court in 2009 on the grounds of plaintiffs’ standing, according to the TTAB cancelation order.

The second legal effort on this front led by Native plaintiffs is another step toward ending the use of Native American mascots in the U.S.  

Read related op-ed articles about this topic from NAJA board members:

Washington's NFL team name is offensive to Native Americans by Mary Hudetz President - NAJA Board of Directors 

Acceptable racial slurs in journalism (The Dreaded R-Word) by Tristan Ahtone, Treasure - NAJA Board of Directors