The U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday it will intervene in a case to defend the constitutionality of a federal statute that stripped the Washington football team of six of seven trademarks.
In August, team owner Dan Snyder sued five Native Americans who won a case against him after the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board [TTAP] ruled in June the team name is “disparaging to Native Americans.” The TTAP based its decision on the Lanham Act, which states that no trademark “may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”
Attorneys for the Washington football have argued the Lanham Act is “unconstitutionally vague,” Ian Shapira of The Washington Post reported.
Joyce R. Branda, acting assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, said in a press release they will defend the statute.
“The Department of Justice is dedicated to defending the constitutionality of the important statute ensuring that trademark issues involving disparaging and derogatory language are dealt with fairly,” she wrote. “I believe strongly in the rights of all Americans to celebrate and maintain their unique cultural heritage. Going forward, we will strive to maintain the ability of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to make its own judgment on these matters, based on clear authorities established by law.”
Amanda Blackhorse, a plaintiff in the June case against the team, told ICTMN she’s glad to see the Department of Justice stepping in.
“I think it reaffirms the government is on our side once again,” Blackhorse said. “They are upholding the Lanham Act. … Native Americans have proved twice now to the [TTAP] that the R-word disparages Native American peoples. I’m happy [the Department of Justice] will uphold [the act].”
Meanwhile, a children’s book glorifying the name of the Washington football team has gone on sale.
‘How the Redskins Got Their Name’, written by M. Andre Billeaudeaux and illustrated by Drew Thomas, follows two kids as they “journey into the rich history of the historic NFL team,” according to the book’s description on blurb.com.
“The two travelers come away from their first NFL game not only recognizing the positive legacy in honoring the venerable painted warriors in 1933, but the importance in treating the name today as an historic treasure,” the description reads. The book is selling for $15.99.
At the time of this story’s publication there was only one comment on the book’s Blurb page. Blurb user andrekaruk wrote: “Racist name, racist mascot.”