- Paul Lukas
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The team name "Redskins" continues to be a divisive issue -- in our nation's capital and elsewhere.
First, in Washington, D.C., legal action aimed at the Washington Redskins was renewed Thursday. The plaintiffs' goal is not to ban the name "Redskins" per se, but rather to strip the team of its exclusive trademark protection on the grounds that disparaging terms are ineligible for trademark status. So even if the petitioners are successful -- a process that would likely involve many appeals and stretch on for years -- Redskins owner Daniel Snyder would not be forced to change the team's name, although he'd probably take a hit at the cash register. A team attorney has stated that the Skins would suffer “every imaginable loss you can think of” without the marketing advantages conferred by trademark status. In any case, this situation shows no signs of being resolved anytime soon.
The situation is more straightforward in Cooperstown, N.Y. The small town is best known as the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, but recently it has become involved in the growing national discussion about Native American mascots and imagery because the teams at Cooperstown High School have been known as the Redskins since the 1920s.
But the school's teams will soon be getting a new nickname. The local school board voted earlier this week to retire the old team name after a group of students petitioned the board to make the change. A new name has not been chosen yet.
One concern for the Cooperstown school district was that a name change would require new uniforms -- a potentially expensive move in budget-conscious times. So the Oneida Indian Nation offered to pay for new Cooperstown uniforms. It's not clear to what extent, if any, this offer affected the school board's vote to change the team name.
One thing is certain, however: The name "Redskins" remains controversial and is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.