Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Jun 2014

Patent Office Cancels Redskins Trademark Registration

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins trademark registration, calling the football team’s name "disparaging to Native Americans." It was a case filed by five Native Americans. This will limit the team's options regarding merchandising. Now that we're talking money, maybe we can finally get Dan Snyder to change the damn thing.

For those who haven't read my writing on this before, here's my idea: call the team the Washington Pigskins. You are paying homage to the most famous players in team history, which sort of also throws a bone to the "traditionalist" fans who don't want the name changed. Who wouldn't want to honor the players who helped win you three Super Bowls? You can still refer to the team as the Skins, or you could now call the whole team the Hogs if you wanted. Fans can still sing the team song by changing one syllable. The uniform colors stay the same, the only thing that has to change is the logo, which could be a stylized "W" for Washington, a picture of a football, or a silhouette of an offensive lineman blocking, sort of an improved version of the old Pat Patriot.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 18 Jun 2014

83 comments, Last at 26 Jun 2014, 4:53pm by tuluse


by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 11:31am


This subject is clearly going to bump pretty hard up against the "no politics" rule here, but this is pretty much the Patent Office doing what the Patent Office should be doing. I'm guessing there aren't a lot of federally-registered trademarks for "kike" or "dago" or other term that these days isn't used all that much but, back in the day, was used to be very disparaging to minority groups. It's a terrible name and should have been changed years ago.

Also, I'm completely on-board with "Pigskins" being a brilliant replacement.

by jonnyblazin :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 1:16pm

I think Warthogs outclasses Pigskins, but I'm not particularly fond of the Washington Football Franchise, so just watching them squirm in this prolonged embarrassment is fine by me.

I think the word "Pig" doesn't inspire much and you don't really want it in your team name, whereas Warthogs can be pretty fierce and plus that's also the name of an awesome plane (military connection w/ DC).

by dryheat :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 3:20pm

Why not War Pigs? If Ozzy is still coherent, there could be some interesting cross-marketing possibilities.

The Warthog has been decommissioned, sadly. I think Warriors would have to be the favorite, if Snyder chooses to keep the logo. But it wouldn't shock me if he went for something entirely unrelated...like the Soldiers ... or the Snyders. I would find it funny if he re-named the team the Bullets.

by Travis :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 3:41pm

If Ozzy is still coherent ...

You're at least twenty years too late there.

by The Ninjalectual :: Fri, 06/20/2014 - 9:59pm

The A-10 was called the Lighting, officially. Warthog fit better though, which is why that's what most people think it's called.

by Roscoe :: Sat, 06/21/2014 - 6:02pm

Thunderbolt II, actually, but nobody ever calls it that.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 11:34am

I suppose the PTO had to do this because of the law, but it's a totally bogus law. I'm with first amendment scholar Eugene Volokh on this:

"My tentative view is that the general exclusion of marks that disparage persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols should be seen as unconstitutional. Trademark registration, I think, is a government benefit program open to a wide array of speakers with little quality judgment. Like other such programs (such as broadly available funding programs, tax exemptions, or access to government property), it should be seen as a form of “limited public forum,” in which the government may impose content-based limits but not viewpoint-based ones. An exclusion of marks that disparage groups while allowing marks that praise those groups strikes me as viewpoint discrimination. "

by ChicagoRaider :: Thu, 06/19/2014 - 7:52am

It will be interesting to see what happens on the appeal. The effort in 1992-1999 to cancel the registration was approved by the Patent Office and reversed by on appeal by the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Pro-Football, Inc. v. Harjo, 415 F.3d 44 (D.C. Cir. 2005).

According to Wikipedia (one always wonders how good the information is) later efforts have been found wanting because of "laches" or having waited too long to assert rights. So, despite what the newspapers are saying, it appears this is far from over based on the history and the past victory on appeal by the Washington club.

(And as far as political, well, let's just say that the USPTO has a lot of pressures on it.)

by Led :: Thu, 06/19/2014 - 12:22pm

Interesting view from Prof. Volokh, since TM protection is, itself, a government restriction on speech. Volokh is referring to law evolved from the proposition that the government can't let some people speak in a public forum but not others based on the viewpoint expressed in the speech. But removing TM protection doesn't restrict the speech rights of the TM holder in any way -- they can continue to use the mark whenever and wherever they want. They just can't prevent others from using it. TM protection also is not a "broadly available" benefit because unlike a tax exemption or subsidy, only the holder of the particular TM gets the benefit. In fact, exclusivity is the very essence of the "benefit." It's a monopoly right. The "free speech" position is (or ought to be) the one in which there are fewer restrictions on speech and not more.

by TomC :: Thu, 06/19/2014 - 1:50pm

Completely agree. I'm a pretty militant civil libertarian, but I don't see how you get from the "no law abridging the freedom of speech" to "I am allowed to trademark anything I want."

by LionInAZ :: Thu, 06/19/2014 - 5:55pm

Exactly. This ruling doesn't prohibit the Washington team from using the term; it just prohibits them from profiting by trademarking the term.

I'm not clear on whether it prohibits the team from using the picture logo, so that may be an out for them.

by PatsFan :: Thu, 06/19/2014 - 7:57pm

You get there via the well-established doctrine that the government is not allowed to engage in viewpoint discrimination.

by RickD :: Fri, 06/20/2014 - 5:24pm

Viewpoint discrimination refers to speech, not to trademarks. It also refers to usage of a public forum. That doesn't quite seem to be the same kind of legal animal as trademark registration. Dan Snyder can use the phrase "Washington Redskins" until he's blue in the face.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 06/23/2014 - 8:58am

That argument depends on whether you view a trademark registration as an affirmative act by the government, or as a passive/permissive one. The government is not required to take part in speech; they just may not prohibit it. Would you also argue that people should be able to get offensive language on their license plates? In my mind, that's a similar concept.

by Roscoe :: Sat, 06/21/2014 - 6:36pm

You get there because denying Washington the trademark forces it to change the team name to something that can be trademarked. The reality of the situation, then, is that government power is being used to ban speech because the government thinks it is offensive.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 06/23/2014 - 1:34pm

Force? Where's that come in?

by Roscoe :: Mon, 06/23/2014 - 8:28pm

It is an important part of a team owner's livelihood to have the exclusive right to sell swag bearing the team's name. If the government takes that income stream away unless the team changes its name then yes, I think the government is forcing the name change.

I work as an attorney and the state bar requires, as a condition of practicing law, that I have 25 hours of continuing legal education every three years. I see this as forcing me to take the classes, even though I suppose I have the choice to quit practicing law.

by Jerry :: Tue, 06/24/2014 - 3:51am

Does the state "force" you to not defraud your clients?

by tuluse :: Mon, 06/23/2014 - 7:49pm

In what world is a trademark needed for something to have a name?

My name is Thomas, not trademarked.

by RickD :: Fri, 06/20/2014 - 5:26pm

Yes, Volokh seems to be standing the First Amendment on its head. Trying to use free speech rights to uphold an act restraining free speech is simply bizarre.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 11:51am

Well maybe Snyder will stick to his guns and keep the name even though it loses him mone..

OK I give up I couldn't even type it never mind say it out loud.

by jds :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 12:30pm

On the money subject, how much of a revenue boost would they get after changing the name and forcing all fans to buy new gear?

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 2:20pm

I always assumed it would be hugely profitable for the Redskins to do that. Obviously rebranding the entire organisation has some costs attached to it but I'm sure it's far outweighed by all the fans who immediately feel they need to replace their existing merchandise.

by RickD :: Fri, 06/20/2014 - 5:28pm

There is reluctance to do this because "Redskins" is a well-established brand with staying power. One cannot presume that any replacement name would do as well. (See, for example, the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Bobcats.)

If, for example, Snyder renamed the team the "Washington Doofuses", you can bet that gear sales would plummet. An extreme example, certainly, but it is chosen to illustrate the point.

by Bernie :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 12:01pm

Hasn't the Donald Sterling situation set a precedent of sorts that Goodell could hide behind....er, use to force the Redskins to change their team name? Adam Silver already showed the balls to unequivocally state that racism, either overt or implied, has no place in our society or its pursuits. Can't Goodell jump on the bandwagon he got sarted and get this blemish taken care of?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 12:10pm

Doubt he'd need to; the fundamental issue here is going to be money. It's not just that the Soon-To-Be-Renamed Washington Football Franchise is going to lose money, it's that, due to revenue sharing, the entire NFL is going to lose money. The *skins are clearly a very high-profile team with a big fanbase, so there's more money to be lost here. If it was the Jaguars or Panthers or something (a newer team with a smaller fanbase) maybe there's not as much of a driver, but the Snyderskins sell a lot of merchandise. Every dollar not going to official merchandise is 1/32 less dollars in the pockets of each other owner. Ownership pressure is going to drive this one.

by jds :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 12:36pm

MD, two things, the NFL is one of the grandest of the old boys networks. No way will the others gang up on Snyder on a team name issue. They may grumble behind closed doors, but in reality, they all have "enough" money, so absent a Donald Sterling outburst, Snyder gets his way on this, whichever way he wants to go.

And I noted from one report that the sharing is actually 1/31, because the Cowboys have their own deal. That being the case, I wonder if Snyder can use this to negotiate out of the league sharing arrangements, and do his own deal like the Cowboys.

by dryheat :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 3:14pm

The reaction of other owners, notably Mr. Mara, to the Washington cap circumvention from a couple of years ago, suggests that Snyder doesn't get his way. Actually, I don't think the other owners like him very much, nor think very highly of him as a businessman.

by dcaslin :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 8:30pm

I'm not sure that they will lose much money. The Redskins name lost it's trademark. The logo and colors (I think) and NFL stamp (I know) are all trademarked. How many fans are going to forego official NFL merchandise to buy knock-off merchandise that doesn't look quite right? The fans willing to do that are probably already getting better quality Chinese knockoffs in the first place.

by RickD :: Fri, 06/20/2014 - 5:34pm

Redskins jerseys sell for $100 or more. It's very easy to imagine somebody undercutting that price. Do you think fans want to pay $100 for jerseys? Even the biggest Skins fans I know (I live in the DC area) hate Snyder and probably would be quite willing to buy gear if they knew the proceeds weren't going to him.

The question would be whether any other clothing manufacturer would be willing to take on the companies that supply the Redskins and the NFL. I suspect that, if this issue were ever totally resolved legally with the Redskins as the loser, that Under Armour (a local company that's done very well but doesn't have league contracts) would be quite happy to step up and undercut Nike.

by theslothook :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 1:10pm

I personally prefer the red clouds, as proposed by tanier.

by BlueStarDude :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 1:49pm

That was my first thought as well.

by are-tee :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 3:22pm

Or they could just shuffle the letters around and call them the Red Inks.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 3:54pm

What and get petitioned by people with red tattoos?

by Kal :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 8:57pm

Clearly the above poster is wrong. It's the Red Sinks.

by Jim C. :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 2:26pm

This order is subject to appeal, just like the similar order entered by the PTO in 1999 and subsequently overturned by a federal court. Even if the PTO order is ultimately upheld, it could be years before this is resolved. So let's not start licking each others' popsicles just yet.

by ChrisS :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 2:28pm

That's the post I was just going to write. So yeah I agree, but I have not heard this popsicle idiom before.

by dryheat :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 3:16pm

The 1999 case was overturned based on lack of standing. That's unlikely to be applicable this time.

While I agree this is far from a done deal, it would have to be overturned for different reasons.

by Jim C. :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 3:52pm

Agreed. My point was about timing, not about ultimate outcome.

by zlionsfan :: Thu, 06/19/2014 - 8:12pm

and there is also a question as to whether there would be an impact even if the appeal process runs its course and the registration is ultimately cancelled. USA Today had a reasonable rundown of the ultimate consequences, or what they might be.

Basically, we're only talking about federal trademark rights here. The Washington team might also have state rights and common-law rights, but it's hard to say, because this is uncharted territory. It seems to be really rare for a trademark even to be up for cancellation for being disparaging.

It may turn out that Snyder dies or sells the team (Washington fans should be so lucky) before there is an ultimate legal resolution.

by Jetspete :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 5:04pm

One decision with a lengthy appeals process isn't going to make Snyder change the name. He wants money, and is likely holding out for a deal where either the league or some public entity (or both) pays for a new stadium in exchange for changing the name. He will get it.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 5:48pm

Now that is a depressing thought.

Although he isn't going to move the team no matter how much he might pretend otherwise. Those lobbying dollars are the best racket in the league. Might be an easy bluff to call.

by RickD :: Fri, 06/20/2014 - 5:42pm

Who do you think is going to pay for a new stadium???

For starters, FedEx field is only 17 years old. Yes, the turf is crap and probably should be replaced, but I don't see the stadium itself as problematic. It's also the largest stadium in the NFL and has an enormous waiting list for season tickets.

DC certainly isn't going to pay for a stadium - their budget is controlled by Congress, and nobody in Congress is going to go home and tell their own constituents that their tax dollars are going to help a team in DC. Is Maryland going to do this? Virginia? Neither state seems likely to do favors for a team that's more identified with DC.

I cannot see the league doing any favors for Snyder. The Redskins are consistently one of the most profitable franchises in the league. Why would any other owner want to help him, or think helping him was appropriate?

by Theo :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 5:58pm

Skins - that's what they're called already 50% of the times.

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 8:04pm

We need a commissioner with guts like Pete Rozelle. Rozelle had no problems making tough decisions like suspending stars like Paul Hornung and Alex Karras for a year for gambling on games, even though it wasn't games in which they played. Since Rozelle, they've had nothing but corporate lawyers.

I also think the next step may be removing the NFL anti-trust exemption. I'm not sure it would pass the House, but I can easily see it passing 2/3 of the Senate.

by Jetspete :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 8:38pm

Pete Rozelle was more of an owner's commissioner than even Goodell. His era saw multiple work stoppages, players paid a pittance of their value, and rampant drug and steroid use. His "guts" would've included backing Snyder in this lawsuit and likely going after the two majority judges.

Congress is never taking away the NFL's exemption over something as trivial as a team name. They still want their season tickets and luxury boxes to their respective teams.

by andrew :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 8:12pm

Fans can still sing the team song by changing one syllable.

But if you are gonna make this change it requires four syllable changes:

Hail to the Pigskins!
Hail Victory!
Hogs on the O-Line!
Fight for old D.C.!

(rest stays the same)

As a side note the song was changed to be less offensive in the early 80s. And before that in the 60s. The initial lyrics were "Fight for old Dixie!" instead of "D.C.", and the second verse was even worse playing on stereotypes:

Scalp 'em, swamp 'um
We will take 'um big score
Read 'um, Weep 'um, touchdown
We want heap more

So that's the tradition for you.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 11:25pm

Ooh... Eurgh. That made me sad.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 8:16pm

The stadium is in Maryland, the team HQ is in Virginia, and the owner has a history of wasting money on bad projects... I still like the idea of calling them the Beltway Bandits.

by Pen :: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 8:48pm

I hope they go with the Red Tails. Honoring the Tuskegee airman with a cool P51 on their helmets.

by Guest789 :: Thu, 06/19/2014 - 11:57am

Easy solution. Keep the name, change the logo to a potato.


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 06/20/2014 - 6:54am

Good mames choices-

Water moccasins would be better nsme than coppeheads but most people would probBly prefer copperh3ads because is o ne word instead of two. Either way, tema woudl have really cool snake logo

by Sixknots :: Fri, 06/20/2014 - 11:26am

Yup, Washington Squirrels it is. Team cheer...Go for the nuts!

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 06/20/2014 - 12:43pm

Washington Squirrels fans woudl provably throw acorns at opposing teams

by Never Surrender :: Fri, 06/20/2014 - 10:23am

Sorry to rain on the parade, but this decision will have very little effect on whether the Redskins will change their name. Even supposing that non-NFL-manufactured Redskins gear siphons money from the league, people are too quick to assume that it will somehow force the team's hand. Snyder isn't going to change the team name over a few million a year.

(It's also possible that the removal of the trademark might lead to more income for Dan Snyder, not less, as the brand flourishes due to increased awareness and sales of Redskins-branded merchandise.)

by panthersnbraves :: Fri, 06/20/2014 - 3:55pm

I was reading an article where there was speculation about forcing changes to the Atlanta Braves, the Illini, Seminoles, etc. I can see that people might find the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo logo annoying, but if that is the case, the I suggest that the next logical step would be having to rename North/South Dakota as well as Delaware, although I suppose Cherokee, NC might be safe, as it is the home to a large Cherokee population. /end reductio ad absurdum

by LionInAZ :: Fri, 06/20/2014 - 8:39pm

Delaware is not named after a tribe, but after an English baron.

Dakota is not particularly offensive, although the alternate Sioux might be considered so.

The Seminole Nation has publicly proclaimed it's support of the Florida St. teams.

I can see support for dumping the stupid tomahawk chop and Chief Sockahoma, but someone with standing will have to complain.

So no, I don't think your cascading scenario will come to pass.

by tuluse :: Mon, 06/23/2014 - 7:53pm

Using the actual name of a people is not the same as using a slur of the people.

Also, the Illini tribe no longer exists, so they'd have trouble finding one who was offended.

by MC2 :: Sat, 06/21/2014 - 9:11am

This whole thing is ridiculous. I don't have any sympathy for Snyder, but if I were a Redskins fan, I wouldn't be too happy about having a new name rammed down my throat, just because some special interest groups are looking for something to whine about.

And please spare me any lectures about how horribly insensitive the name is. Are you honestly telling me that you think anyone's daily life will improve just because the Washington NFL franchise is called something different? Give me a break.

Sticks and stones, people. Sticks and stones.

by TomC :: Sat, 06/21/2014 - 8:04pm

In honor of this poster I vote we rename them the Washington Trolls.

by MC2 :: Sat, 06/21/2014 - 11:30pm

I'm a troll because I refuse to join your silly PC Lynch Mob?


By the way, where is your righteous indignation over the NFL's fawning adoration of the U.S. military? You know, the same military that kills scores of innocent people (including children) around the globe. Oh wait, I forgot. I guess it's OK, as long as they don't call them any bad names before raining death down on them, right?

(Yes, I know this probably violates the "no politics" rule, but with this topic, how can that really be avoided?)

by dryheat :: Sun, 06/22/2014 - 8:49am

" Are you honestly telling me that you think anyone's daily life will improve just because the Washington NFL franchise is called something different? "

Beautiful non-sequitur. I don't see why the measuring stick on whether or not to change a team's derogatory nickname should be how many people's daily lives will improve.

by MC2 :: Sun, 06/22/2014 - 9:47am

And I don't see why it shouldn't be. Absent any tangible harm, it's really just a matter of personal preference. Some people like the name, and some people don't.

And as for it being "derogatory", that's a matter of perception. The Giants' name might be considered derogatory to people suffering from gigantism. The Saints' name might be offensive to atheists. Even the Vikings' name could be seen as racist, given the tendency of many white supremacist groups to utilize Norse symbols.

Besides, if you really want to do something symbolic to demonstrate solidarity with Native Americans, how about demanding that Andrew Jackson's face be removed from all U.S. currency, instead of worrying about the nickname of a football team?

This whole drive to change the Redskins' name reeks of professional whiners (er, special interest groups) going after low-hanging fruit to impress gullible donors.

by dryheat :: Sun, 06/22/2014 - 11:11am

The defense of the name as a recent Liberal, everybody gets a medal, let's not offend anybody campaign is misguided. Native American tribes -- not all, certainly -- but multiple, have been fighting this issue since at least the 70s. The fact that it took this long for the media and Congress this long to put the issue front and center is an unfortunate commentary on the political system, since it's certainly Casino dollars that make this fight possible.

Is it the most important issue facing our country? Of course not -- I agree that it's low-hanging fruit. That doesn't mean it's not a worthwhile pursuit. I'd hate for Congress to do nothing until they find the most important thing to do and concentrate on that.

There's no logical argument for keeping the name. Nobody's really offended? Well, obviously people are...including de facto Natives. Because that's the way it's always been? Terrible rational for doing or not doing anything. That it's government infringement on private industry? So long as the NFL is receiving govt. assistance with tax-exempt status and anti-trust exemptions, the government absolutely does have a voice in the matter.

Changing minds on this issue is a long process. I happen to be married to a Cherokee. She never lived on a reservation, doesn't perform ceremonial dances, wear headresses, or speak their tongue. Changing the name of the team probably doesn't crack the top 20 list of issues that are important to her. That doesn't mean she doesn't cringe every time she hears the word. It's certainly not a term I would let anybody address her or our children with with impunity.

The difference between the R word and the N word is simply one of scale. If I remember the Census figures somewhat accurately, we're talking somewhere in the neighborhood of 13% of the U.S. population vs. <1%. The vast majority of Americans have had a lifetime's worth of interaction with blacks, and the social education that goes along with it, but with the exceptions of those of us who live in a dozen or so pockets around the U.S. likely don't have interaction with Natives and haven't had the equivalent of "use of the N word is wrong" education. Yes, to many people, the R word refers only to a football team. To others, it means a hell of a lot more that that.

by tuluse :: Mon, 06/23/2014 - 8:06pm

It's part of a systemic culture of degrading and oppressing Native Americans. Will this single act make a measurable impact on a single person's life? Probably not, but it might send a signal that creates more actions.

dryheat has an even better explanation.

by MC2 :: Sun, 06/22/2014 - 11:28am

There's no logical argument for keeping the name. Nobody's really offended? Well, obviously people are...including de facto Natives. Because that's the way it's always been? Terrible rational for doing or not doing anything. That it's government infringement on private industry? So long as the NFL is receiving govt. assistance with tax-exempt status and anti-trust exemptions, the government absolutely does have a voice in the matter.

Nice job of constructing straw man arguments. The reason that I gave is that, absent tangible harm, it comes down to "offending" people, which is totally subjective.

Personally, I find the name "Patriots" to be rather offensive, given the large quantities of blood that have been needlessly spilled in the name of patriotism. Does that mean that New England should have to find a new nickname?

by dryheat :: Sun, 06/22/2014 - 1:57pm

If you can convince a reasonable person that "Patriot", "Giant", "Viking" or whatever else you want to argue is a derogogatory racial slur, sure, I'll be right up there with you.

All these words mean something besides whatever absurd reasoning you can dream up to make it offensive.

"Redskin" exists in one, and only one, context. And it is most definitely not one of respect....no matter how much the white man who owns the team says it is. (isn't it funny that defenders of the name claim that it's the white bleeding hearts that are offended, but never bring up that it's a group of white men who insist the term is one that said peoples should feel honored by?)

Next on Theatre of the Absurd, the Finger Lakes Region Bi-Plane Enthusiast Society petition the NFL to have the AFC team in New Jersey change their nickname to one they don't find offensive. The Midwest Biofuel Exploration Commitee agrees, says "Jets" is the equivalent of "Redskin".

by MC2 :: Sun, 06/22/2014 - 11:10pm

If you can convince a reasonable person that "Patriot", "Giant", "Viking" or whatever else you want to argue is a derogogatory racial slur, sure, I'll be right up there with you.

All these words mean something besides whatever absurd reasoning you can dream up to make it offensive.

Again, you ignore my point about subjectivity. Words mean different things to different people. And what the word "Redskin" means to most people is simply a member of the NFL franchise located in Washington. Do you really think that when RGIII introduces himself as a Redskin, most people take that to mean that he's a self-loathing Native American?

Words, in isolation, are never offensive. It's all about the meaning intended by the speaker. When Dr. Dre, Eazy E, Ice Cube, and MC Ren used to call themselves "Niggas With Attitude", they weren't using a derogatory term. Neither is someone from England who uses the term "fag" when referring to a cigarette. Those words are offensive in other contexts, but not in the situations in question.

The same is true when football players, coaches, fans, and so on use the term "Redskins" to refer to members of the Washington NFL franchise. It's not a derogatory term in that context, which is the relevant issue.

by Insancipitory :: Sun, 06/22/2014 - 11:20pm

If you're going to go down this road in the future, may I suggest using the Yankees as your example. That word has it's origins as a Dutch insult (referring to predominantly English colonists as "Jon Cheese." So the New York Yankees are literally the equivalent to the Mexico City Beaners. Started as a pejorative, and has been repeatedly adopted and consistently used as a pejorative right up until to today.

by dryheat :: Mon, 06/23/2014 - 8:20am

My last word here:

"Redskin" doesn't mean "a football player who plays for the Washington franchise". Let's not confuse definitions of words with trade names.

"Caterpillar" does not mean "a construction machine"

"Apple" does not mean "a personal computer from California"

"Arrow" does not mean "a low-end men's clothing manufacturer"

"Ram" means neither "a football player who plies his trade in St. Louis" nor "a truck owned by Chrysler". It means a male sheep.

I get it that if one is a fan of the team, and you're entire life has been spent rooting for the "Redskins", it's kind of inconvenient to start rooting for a team called by another nickname. It's probably worse when the nickname extends back as long as it does (as opposed to Panthers) or is a fairly unique name (as opposed to Panthers). But that's all it is -- inconvenient. Snyder should find a name the fans can embrace with nostalgia, like Hogs, and be done with this.

And I think you'd have a hard time making an argument that Niggas, used as part of Niggas Wit Attitudes, is a non-derogatory phrase. I don't think we would ever see a football team called the Los Angeles Niggas and have it's white owner claim it's a term of respect.

by MC2 :: Mon, 06/23/2014 - 12:51pm

You're talking about definitions, while I'm talking about meanings. The meaning of a word encompasses far more than its dictionary definition. Meaning is fluid and highly dependent on context. For example, screaming out a particular expletive in the middle of sex conveys a far different meaning than screaming out that same expletive after you've just hit your thumb with a hammer.

So, during football season, if someone asks you what you're doing this weekend, and you say, "I'm going to watch the Redskins", it is highly unlikely that they will assume that you are going to watch some Native Americans. It is far more likely that they will assume that you are going to watch a football game involving the team located in Washington, because that is the meaning of the word "Redskins" in that particular context. In that case, there is nothing offensive about the word.

I could give plenty of other examples, but I think I would be wasting my time. You apparently believe that the meanings of words are objective and static, while I believe they are subjective and dynamic. Given these differing perspectives, I seriously doubt either of us will have much luck changing the other's mind, even if we argued until we were blue in the face (so to speak).

by tuluse :: Mon, 06/23/2014 - 8:09pm

The team named the Redskins is named after Native Americans, not some imaginary meaning of Redskins.

by MC2 :: Tue, 06/24/2014 - 1:52am

How is that in any way relevant to the point I am making?

by tuluse :: Wed, 06/25/2014 - 2:04am

You were trying to argue that in this context the term Redskin doesn't mean Native American. I reject that claim.

by MC2 :: Wed, 06/25/2014 - 4:52am

So you believe that if someone says, "I really like the Redskins", they are simply choosing a pejorative way to express their admiration for Native Americans?

by tuluse :: Wed, 06/25/2014 - 10:35am

Let me rephrase. Words do not lose their other meanings just because they gain new ones.

When a normal person hears the word Redskins he probably conjures images of both the team and Native Americans.

by MC2 :: Wed, 06/25/2014 - 11:40am

I seriously doubt that. If I hear someone say, "The 49ers beat the Redskins, 24-21", for example, I no more think of Native Americans than I do of the California Gold Rush. In fact, in everyday conversation, I can't ever recall hearing the word used to refer to anything other than the football team, so I would argue that its use as a slur against Native Americans is largely archaic.

However, even if you are correct, are you then contending that words with multiple meanings should never be used, if one of those meanings might be offensive? Should words like "bitch", "cock", "dyke", "screw" and so forth be banished from the language entirely, simply to avoid the possibility someone might mistakenly take offense at their legitimate uses? That seems like quite an overreaction to me.

by tuluse :: Wed, 06/25/2014 - 3:39pm

No one is talking about banning words from the language.

However, I would equally oppose a trademark given to the Washington Bitches.

by Guest789 :: Wed, 06/25/2014 - 4:15pm

I would watch that team.

by MC2 :: Thu, 06/26/2014 - 2:13am

As I said in my original comment, I have no sympathy for Snyder over the trademark issue.

What I oppose is the concerted effort to to ram a new name down people's throats, even though the old name is causing no tangible harm to anyone, and only seems to be problematic to those who are looking for things to which they can take offense.

by tuluse :: Thu, 06/26/2014 - 4:53pm

To be clear, I fully support Snyder's rights to name his team whatever he pleases.

I do think keeping the current name is kind of a dick move which reflects poorly on him, but again it's his right to do so.

by Guest789 :: Wed, 06/25/2014 - 4:18pm

People here might enjoy this satirical piece from the Canadian version of the Onion.