The U.S. Patent Office, which recently attended to the important work of granting Amazon it’s “subject on a white background” photography patent, recently re-affirmed its indispensability by suspending the trademarked name of the Washington Redskins.
According to the Patent Office, Redskins is a racially derogatory slur aimed at “Native Americans,” and, as such, is disqualified from trademark consideration:
. . . Based on the evidence properly before us, [we decide] that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered
The cancelled trademarks include the name of the team in any form (as well as the logo) and the name of the Washington cheerleaders: “the Redskinettes.” Before you get too upset, this is likely more of a political PR stunt that will have no effect on the Washington Redskins beyond bad publicity.
Much of the furor against the team’s name came after Harry Reid and about fifty other Senators (who also had nothing better to do) sent a letter to the NFL Commissioner telling him to take action against the Redskins and force them to change their name. The letter says that the climate for a name change was particularly ripe because of Donald Sterling’s highly publicized racist comments:
The despicable comments made by Mr. Sterling have opened up a national conversation about race relations. We believe this conversation is an opportunity for the NFL to take action to remove the racial slur from the name of one of its marquee franchises.
Now is the time for the NFL to act. The Washington D.C. football team is on the wrong side of history. What message does it send to punish slurs against African Americans while endorsing slurs against Native Americans?
. . . Every Sunday during football season, the Washington D.C. football team mocks [Native American] culture.
Not once does the letter even mention the name Redskins. Instead it chooses to refer to the team as “the Washington D.C. football team.” The tone of this letter—its absurd gravitas and sanctimonious self-importance—it’s enough to make me throw up a little in my mouth.
And mind you, I have a good percentage of Cherokee blood in me. I respect the aboriginal American culture,1 what’s left of it anyway, and I find it hilarious that any self-respecting tribe would trust the US government of all organizations to stick up for its rights. It’s not the Washington Redskins that need to be treated with contempt here. It’s Washington D.C. itself. Ever heard of the Trail of Tears? Yeah, the “Washington D.C. football team” had nothing to do with that.
Have the Washington Redskins done any actual harm to aboriginal Americans? Not really. They aren’t making fun of anyone or mocking anyone’s culture. Anymore than the Atlanta Braves or the Florida State Seminoles. It’s a team mascot. These aren’t representations of actual aboriginal Americans. These are traditional caricatures—like a witch with black hat and warts, a French man with black-striped shirt and a beret, a cowboy with chaps and six-shooters. This is Cowboys and Indians, guys. It was never intended as a serious representation of aboriginal Americans, and honestly, I don’t think anyone thinks less or more of actual aboriginal Americans because of the name Redskins.
And why s the name even considered disparaging? What about white people being called “pale faces” in movie after movie and show after show. Are we upset by that? No. Why should we be? Most of us have pale faces. It’s a description. Do black people have a problem being called black? No. It’s a description. Pretty soon Harry Reid’s gonna send a letter to Sunday School organizations banning the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children” because it says “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.”
Did you say, red and yellow? Gasp. Shock and horrors. How dare you call aboriginal Americans red-skinned. That is a disparaging racial slur. Whatever. Does anyone in our civil government have anything to do at all? I mean anything at all? Why are we paying any of these people? They can’t balance a bloated budget, but they have time to write a bloated letter to a football team about their name? Who gives a flying arrowhead? And don’t even get me started on the Patent Office. Fire them all. Seriously. Fire every one of them.
- I use “aboriginal American” because “Native American” isn’t exclusive enough. I am a native American. I was born here. So were my parents. But the majority of my most distant ancestors were not the first occupants of this land. So “aboriginal” is a more accurate anthropological term for the first known settlers of North America, though it is a bit of a mouth full. [↩]