NAJA issues statement on court’s decision to uphold cancellation of Washington NFL trademark registration

Posted by Rebecca Landsberry on 07/08/2015

WASHINGTON, DC -- A federal judge in Virginia dealt a significant blow Wednesday to the Washington NFL team name, ordering the cancellation of the NFL team’s federal trademark registration on their mascot.  

The court ruled in favor of Navajo Nation citizen Amanda Blackhorse, who will deliver keynote remarks at the National Native Media Awards Banquet on Saturday evening in Arlington, Virginia, as part of the Native American Journalists Association's 31st annual conference. The plenary panel discussion "Race, Journalism and Sports: The Dilemma of the Washington NFL Team Name"  is also on the conference agenda for Saturday at the Hyatt Regency-Crystal City. 

Details will be forthcoming on acquiring press credentials for these two events. 

In its ruling, the court cited dictionary evidence, literary, scholarly, and media references, and the statements of Native peoples showing that the team’s name disparages their culture. 

The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) supports assertions in the court’s decision, as the organization works to educate journalism colleagues on how the team mascot has resulted in perpetuating stereotypes and consistent use of an offensive term in the news media.  

More than a decade ago, NAJA began calling on media organizations to limit the way the term is used in stories, in recognition of the fact that the highest standards of journalism call for avoiding offensive slurs in broadcasts, reports and stories. 

"The judge's decision today stands in line with NAJA's longtime assertion and that of dozens of other national Native American organizations that this term is deeply offensive to all of us as Native peoples," says Mary Hudetz, NAJA president and a member of the Crow Tribe.

"I hope with this news today all of our colleagues in the media industry, especially sports journalists, who have not followed suit, take pause to reevaluate their own decisions to repeatedly use the offensive team name in broadcast and written reports."

The name has been adamantly opposed by many leading organizations in the Native American community for several decades, and the NFL team’s ability to register the mascot under trademark law has been under litigation for over two decades.

In the past two years, a growing number of journalists have joined in denouncing the name of the Washington NFL team as well. 

The decisions come with the understanding that the term is derogatory toward Native Americans, and NAJA is encouraged by these writers' and editors' actions.