In June, the United States Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the Washington Redskins’ trademarks because it is “disparaging to Native Americans.” The Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder disagrees, and has appealed the ruling. He sees the name as one that implies honor, as the team was named “Redskins” after the first head coach’s Native American Heritage. Members of the National Congress of American Indians, including the former president, aided the Redskin brand, by designing the logo. Should the name be changed?
The Redskin Brand would receive positive feedback for doing the politically correct thing: sensitively addressing a dark subject of the U.S.’s immoral past. New names have already circulated, including the very popular “Washington Pigskins” and “Washington Americans.” These two potential names hope to preserve the history and culture of the team without offending the Native American population. However, the Redskins risk losing the historical and emotional attachment many fans have towards the trademark.
Several polls have found that the majority of Redskins’ fans do not favor rebranding. Fans might psychological disengage from the brand, especially as the team has not performed well in recent years. Opposing the change is currently the safest course of action for the Redskin organization; if they win, they emerge with most of their fanbase in tact, if they lose they can cry that their hands are tied, leaving them less culpable. Popular opinion is still divided. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley believes it is “probably time” for the change, yet NFL commissioner Roger Goodell maintains that the name ‘honors Native Americans.’
Regardless of the outcome of the appeal and the ensuing publicity, the Redskins should make an attempt to involve their fans in the rebranding process. Redskin fans have not remained silent on social media and it would behoove the organization to take advantage of these facts. HTTR: Hail to the Redskins. This is a phrase used often by D.C. fans. Will we ever hear it again?