WASHINGTON — A federal judge has upheld a June 2014 ruling to cancel the Redskins’ six federal trademark protections, 106.7 The Fan has learned, a dramatic blow to the team’s ongoing campaign to preserve its name.
The Redskins were attempting to appeal the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s ruling cancelling the trademarks on the grounds the term ‘Redskins’ was “disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered.”
U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled against the Redskins in appeals court on Wednesday, two weeks after hearing arguments from both parties in advance of a July 27 trial date.
Judge Lee had asked both parties in “Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc.” – named for lead petitioner Amanda Blackhorse, and the corporate name under which the Redskins operate – to address whether a Supreme Court ruling in Texas, in which justices ruled the state of Texas should not be required to issue specialty license plates bearing the Confederate Flag, applied to the Redskins’ “free speech” argument.
Both parties, after submitting evidence to support their claims, had requested Judge Lee to make a summary judgement. In other words, a ruling on whether the name “Redskins” may disparage Native Americans to avoid going to trial.
Jesse Witten, an attorney representing the Native American petitioners, said of Wednesday’s ruling: “Today’s ruling by the District Court resoundingly affirmed the Trademark Office’s decision that the team’s trademark registrations should never have been issued.
“Judge Gerald Bruce Lee found that the evidence we presented – opposition to the team name by the National Congress of American Indians and other leading Native American groups and individuals, dictionary definitions, scholarly articles, and newspaper clips – demonstrated the disparaging nature of the team’s name. This decision is a victory for human dignity and for my courageous clients who have waited so long for this ruling.”
The team has the right to seek further appellate review, which would be heard in the fourth circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. – one step below the U.S. Supreme Court.