The U.S. Patent Office’s decision to revoke the six trademarks associated with the Washington Redskins represents a landmark ruling against what is widely regarded as the most offensive team name in sports.
On Wednesday, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that the word “Redskins” is “disparaging to Native Americas,” a violation of federal law that prohibits the use of offensive language in a trademark. Team owner Dan Snyder won’t be forced to change his franchise’s name, but the cancellation of existing trademarks lifts restrictions on the use of the Redskins logo. In other words, anyone can now sell Redskins merchandise, with or without the organization’s consent.
The ruling represents the latest in a series of attempts to prod Snyder and his compatriots to change the name of the NFL’s Washington franchise. In May, a group of 50 Democratic members of the U.S. Senate endorsed a letter which urged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to force a name change, citing the decisive action taken by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in the wake of Donald Sterling’s racist comments.
Weeks later, a Native American tribe from California aired an anti-Redskins commercial during Game 3 of the 2014 NBA Finals. The ad, which listed many of the names that Native Americans were proud to adopt throughout their history, also noted that the word “Redskins” was not among them.
“It’s just a time to get people thinking about putting an end to outward hatred and using sports as a tool to focus on racism,” Marshall McKay, chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun tribal council, told the Washington Post.
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Still, the Washington Redskins aren’t the only sports franchise to make use of a name that’s considered offensive by a group of people. Here’s a list of the five most offensive team names in sports.
Coachella Valley Arabs
Coachella Valley, a high school in California, drew intense criticism in 2013 after images of its mascot – a blatant representation of stereotypes associated with the Arab culture -- circulated online. Initially, high school officials rejected calls from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee to replace their mascot. Ultimately, the school compromised: it kept its “Arabs” name for its sports team, but agreed to make altercations to its mascot.
The Braves have responded to critics in recent years, retiring former mascot “Chief Noc-A-Homa” in 1986 and ruling out a potential return to their “screaming savage” logo in 2013. However, the “Tomahawk Chop” remains a popular rallying cry at Turner Field.
Much like the Washington Redskins, the Chicago Blackhawks’ logo consists of a Native American man who wears war paint on his face and feathers in his hair.
Kansas City Chiefs
Defenders of the Chiefs name will say it's meant to honor Native American culture. However, the team’s brand makes use of several stereotypes. Kansas City plays at “Arrowhead Stadium,” its logo consists of an arrowhead, and its mascot is a horse named “Warpaint.”
Aside from the fact that some consider the name a politically incorrect term for Native Americans, many, including the New Republic, have noted team mascot “Chief Wahoo” is little more than an overtly racist caricature.