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Redskins can hold on to their trademark ... amazing.

May 15, 2009 | 12:49 pm

Redskins.230 First of all, a disclaimer: I'm from our nation's capital and grew up a rabid Washington Redskins fan. I shared season tickets with friends and lived and died with the often losing efforts of guys like Sonny Jurgensen, Charley Taylor and Larry Brown

But for decades, I have not been able to understand how the team has held on to a nickname that offends so many people and why the club has so staunchly defended it.

Friday, an appeals court in Washington upheld a lower court's decision in favor of the football team over a group of American Indians who contended the club's trademark is racially offensive. The ruling did not address the racial aspects of the case; the U.S. Court of Appeals issued its decision on a technicality, that the suit had been filed too long after the team was granted a trademark on the name in 1967.

Indians.230 There is some debate about the origin of the term "redskin," and some scholars point out that it was not originally a pejorative. That's fine, but what is not debatable is that the term became derisive and is clearly offensive to many now.

At a time when the NCAA has decided it will not hold any of its national championships at schools with Native American mascots, when the North Dakota Board of Higher Education voted to get rid of the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, it seems indefensible that there would be so little movement in Washington -- and the NFL for that matter -- to move away from nicknames that no clubs would realistically consider were they starting a franchise today.

Of course, beyond Washington's NFL team, there is the logo for the Cleveland Indians, which takes ethnic stereotyping to its ultimate level. Washington at least says it portrays its logo in a noble, historically accurate framework, though the outfits of the Redskin marching band might diminish that argument. But in Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland logo remains a caricature that would be laughable were it not such a retro-stereotype.

The argument in support of these mascots and logos is often that the names represent the great tradition of franchises. But tradition for tradition's sake isn't an argument at all. 

--Mike James

Photos: Top, Redskins helmet. Bottom, Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians. Photo credits: Top, Alex Brandon / Associated Press. Bottom, AP.


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