A California Lawmaker Is Trying (Again) to Force Washington’s NFL Team to Change Its Racist Name

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Washington’s pro football team faces yet another challenge over its name and logo, this time from Congress. 

On Tuesday, Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would revoke existing and future trademarks on the team’s offensive name. The legislation would also declare the word “redskins” a disparaging term when used in reference to Native Americans, making it impossible to trademark under the Lanham Act, which prohibits trademarks that brings people into “contempt, or disrepute.”   

“It is unbelievable to me that, in the 21st century, a prominent NFL franchise is calling itself by a racial slur,” Honda said in a statement. “Allowing trademark protection of this word is akin to the government approving its use. Removing that trademark will send a clear message that this name is not acceptable.”

Honda, who cosponsored a similar bill in 2013, is part of a group of lawmakers who have put pressure on the NFL and the team’s owner, Dan Snyder, to change the team’s name. Last September, for example, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) raised bills in the House and Senate that would revoke the NFL’s tax-exempt status if it were to “promote” the use of the R-word. Both bills failed to make it to a vote. 

Meanwhile, the team is in the middle of a lawsuit over its trademark registration, after the US Patent and Trademark Office’s appeal board ruled that its name and logo violated the Lanham Act and determined the team should lose its trademark protections. While the team has argued the law is “unconstitutionally vague,” the Washington Post reported that the US Justice Department will defend its constitutionality. 

Of course, Snyder has promised to never change his team’s name, insisting that the moniker is a term of respect rather than a racial slur. So far, calls from prominent Native American groups, as well as the grim history of racist team names in other professional sports, haven’t yet persuaded him that he’s wrong. It’s unlikely Congress will, either.

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