June 19, 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 Native American Journalists Association’s (NAJA) stance against the use of Native mascots, NAJA supports the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) 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 than a decade.
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 the 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.
“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 cancellation follows the 1992 Harjo v. Pro Football, Inc. case to the TTAB where Native American plantiffs 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 plantiffs’ standing, according to the TTAB cancellation 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.