PORTLAND – Some local Native Americans say the name Washington Redskins is a racial slur and shouldn't be trademarked.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board canceled six trademark registrations owned by the Washington NFL club, ruling that the term Redskins was disparaging to American Indians when the marks were granted between 1967 and 1990.
The NFL team will retain its trademark while they appeal the decision. If the club loses the case it can continue to use the name, but without trademark protection others could potentially use the team's name and logos to sell merchandise.
The D.C. ruling came months after Oregon passed one of the strictest bans on American Indian team names in the country.
Activists fighting against these mascot names said Wednesday that their campaign was just beginning.
Their strategy has been if you can't get rid of a name, make the name worthless.
“I think it's huge,” said Se-ah-dom Edmo of the Oregon Indian Education Association of Wednesday’s ruling. “It's four decades in the making.”
In the 1950s and 1960s Edmo’s father, poet and activist Ed Edmo, went to school in The Dalles. He literally had to be the school mascot, forced to dress up as an American Indian, as a condition of playing sports, according to Edmo.
“It was very discriminatory, very racist,” Edmo said.
Edmo believes those social conditions still exist today if teams like the Redskins refuse to change their name.
“For the state of Oregon, here it’s the same way, a number of native folks have asked a number of schools to stop using race-based Native American names and they wouldn’t do it,” Edmo said.
Edmo fought successfully to ban American Indian mascot names in the state. In 2012, the Oregon Board of Education banned their use, and in 2013 Governor John Kitzhaber vetoed a bill that would have let some school grandfather in their old logos.
Now schools must phase out the use of the names by 2017.
While Edmo applauded Wednesday’s trademark decision, she wants to win the hearts and minds of everyday citizens.
Some don’t believe these names were meant to harm and disagree with taking legal actions against them.
“There is no malice intended by the use of the Redskins name," said a man. “Do I agree with the decision, no.”
Edmo, however, said the campaign will continue.
“I think this is when it heats up,” she said.
Cornelius Swart contributed to this report