Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

June 24, 2014

It’s time to change the ‘Redskins’ team name

The fight over the controversial NFL football team name Washington “Redskins” took an interesting twist recently when the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) canceled the NFL team’s “Redskins” trademark because of its offensiveness towards American Indians.

The team is expected to appeal the decision and will be able to retain its trademark pending appeal, but this is a significant blow against the team and the NFL’s rigid stance that it will not change the name.

Without trademark protection, the team and the NFL (through revenue sharing) will lose a significant amount of money on the sale of Redskins’ merchandise because anyone could manufacture and sell products with the team’s logo on it.

Getting hit in the pocketbook may be the push needed to get Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to finally do the right thing and change the offensive name.

It has been a controversial issue and fight that has been going on for years with Snyder and the NFL often arguing that the team’s name is not racist or offensive but rather is celebrating the American Indian heritage.

A number of American Indian nations, including the Oneida Indian Nation, have publicly come out against this stance and maintained that the Redskins name is derogatory and was historically used as a racial epithet.

Commissioner Goodell previously has gone on record stating that the NFL will not force Snyder to change the team name and that, in fact, 9 out of 10 American Indians support his position and the Redskins team name.

There is debate, however, on the legitimacy of any such statistic and some American Indian nations have publicly disputed it.

Additionally, when asked in the past whether he would ever call an American Indian a “Redskin” to their face, Goodell sidestepped the question.

It certainly seems that if the team name is truly celebratory like Goodell claims, then he would have no problem directly answering that question.

There also has been speculation that the real reason behind the reluctance to change the name is monetary.

The team’s name has been the same for so long that changing it would be a significant financial burden to both parties.

This justification always has rang hollow to me, especially coming from a league that generates $9 billion annually in revenue and a team that is worth $1.7 billion — one of the most valuable franchises in all of professional sports.

Given the USPTO’s recent decision, changing the team name seems to be the logical next step since the purported financial burden justification should now fall to the wayside since the team and the NFL will lose money without the trademark.

The question now becomes how much do the league and team truly believe that the Redskins’ moniker is appropriate and celebratory now that they potentially cannot benefit financially from using the name?

I highly doubt if the team loses its trademark appeal, it will continue to argue that the Redskins name is that important to the league, the team, and to American Indians.

It remains to be seen, but the NFL has always been a bottom-line-driven league and right now, their bottom-line is looking at taking a hit.

The writer is an assistant professor of business at Misericordia University, Dallas, Pa.

 Joshua Winneker, J.D.

Dallas, Pa.

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