Warren Richey, Christian Science Monitor, November 16, 2009
A group of native Americans have lost their bid to force the Washington Redskins pro football team to change its name because they consider it to be a racial slur.
On Monday, the US Supreme Court, in a one-line ruling, refused to take up the case. The action lets stand a decision by a federal appeals court in Washington that the native Americans had waited too long to bring their challenge to the Redskins trademark, and thus forfeited any right to sue.
Some analysts view the case as political correctness run amok. But for nearly 40 years, native American organizations have been working to end the use of Indian names and symbols as sports mascots in the US–at high schools, colleges, and among professional teams.
They have had significant success at the college and high school levels, persuading officials that Indian names and mascots for sports teams are derogatory and demeaning to native Americans. For example, between 1991 and 2008, 11 high schools and two colleges discontinued the use of “Redskins” as their team name. They include Miami University in Ohio and Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma.
Similar efforts at persuasion have been aimed at the Washington Redskins football team, dating from 1972. But the team insists that its trademark team name does not disparage native Americans. The team has invested millions of dollars to enhance and promote the trademark name on telecasts, in advertising, and on merchandise.
The Redskins name originated in Boston in 1933. The football team was called the Boston Braves, but the owner decided to rename the team the Boston Redskins in honor of the team’s head coach, William “Lone Star” Dietz, who was a native American, writes lawyer Robert Raskopf in a brief filed on behalf of the team.
The term “redskins” is now, and always has been, a derogatory and offensive term, according to a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the National Congress of American Indians and other major native American tribes and groups.