WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Redskins won another legal victory Friday in a 17-year fight with a group of American Indians who argue the football team's trademark is racially offensive.
The decision issued Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington doesn't address the main question of racism at the center of the case. Instead, it upholds the lower court's decision in favor of the football team on a legal technicality.
The court agreed that the seven Native Americans waited too long to challenge the trademark first issued in 1967. They initially won — the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office panel canceled the trademarks in 1999 — but they've suffered a series of defeats in the federal courts since then.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly overturned that decision in 2003 in part because the suit was filed decades after the first Redskins trademark was issued.
The judge did not address whether the Redskins name is offensive or racist. She wrote that her decision was not based on the larger issue of "the appropriateness of Native American imagery for team names."
A three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld that decision Friday.
The plaintiffs have a backup plan: A group of six American Indians ranging in age from 18 to 24 filed essentially the same lawsuit two years ago, but the new case has been on hold until this one was resolved.
Sports Illustrated published an interesting survey in 2002. In it, they asked Native Americans living both on and off reservations what they thought of nicknames or mascots that used Native American imagery. The results were very surprising for most. The majority of Native Americans involved in the survey just didn't see a huge problem. Numbers typically around 10-to-15 percent were opposed to the use of such nicknames, but a large portion of them either had no problem with it or didn't care either way. This was even the case when the survey asked about the Washington Redskins, a team name with a lot of history, but one derived from a word many find derogatory.