The ongoing debate over changing the Washington Redskins’ name reached a high point Wednesday when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decided to cancel the team’s trademark registration, calling it “disparaging” against Native Americans.
Opponents of the Redskins’ name, who call it a racial slur, have touted the decision as a victory, but the team’s management has said they still maintain many of the same rights.
While the patent office’s decision deals a blow to the $1.7 billion franchise, it doesn’t put the Redskins’ name and logo up for grabs. The team can keep its federal registration until it has exhausted all appeals.
The Redskins’ trademark lawyer, Bob Raskopf, released a statement Wednesday saying the team would appeal the decision. He defended the name, citing a 2003 federal court ruling that found it was “insufficient to conclude” the name disparaged anyone in the current time period.
The controversy over the name has prompted some media outlets to stop publishing it. The Seattle Times announced after the patent office ruling that the name “won’t appear again” in print or online.
And the Times isn’t the first paper to stop using “Redskins.” CBS Sports reported that several other major organization have already ceased publishing the name. The Washington City Paper announced in 2012 that it would call the D.C. football team the “Pigskins” as long as it was officially called the Redskins.
The D.C. Council passed a resolution in November urging the team to change its name, calling it “racist and derogatory,” though the legislators lack the authority to force a change.
President Barack Obama weighed in on the controversy last fall, saying he would consider changing the name if he owned the team.
“I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Owner Daniel Snyder told USA Today last year that the team would “never” change the name. “NEVER,” he said. “You can use caps.”