On March 21, H.R. 1278, was introduced in the House by Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) and nine co-sponsors in hopes to ban the trademarking of the term “redskins” and other racist language against Native Americans, a move the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) fully supports.
The Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act of 2013, if passed, would strip the Washington football team of its trademarked name and put a stop to its exclusive profiteering from using the racist slur in its logo on sweatshirts, tee shirts, caps, coffee mugs, and dozens of other products flooding the market, Indian Country Today Media Network reported on March 21.
“NARF commends Rep. Faleomavaega and all the original sponsors of this important bill, which sends a clear signal that some members of Congress do not take anti-Native stereotyping and discrimination lightly. These Representatives now join Native American nations, organizations and people who have lost patience with the intransigence of the Washington pro football franchise in holding on to the indefensible – a racial epithet masquerading as a team name,” a statement from the nonprofit law firm said.
“NARF also commends all those individuals in the on-going Harjo and Blackhorse proceedings in federal agencies and courts for their tireless advocacy attempting in righting this wrong. While these cases have yet to succeed, they have provided the springboard for legislative efforts like the new bill,” the statement continued.
NARF has been representing the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) ), the National Indian Education Association (NIEA), the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC)), and the Tulsa Indian Coalition Against Racism (TICAR) as amici curiae in Harjo et al v. Pro Football, Inc. The firm has been involved with the cases for more than 20 years including organizing amici briefs in support of the Native petition for Supreme Court review.
The fight over race-based stereotyping and behavior in sports has gone on for years and has included only one meeting between Natives and an owner of the Washington football team – that was in 1972 with then president Edward Bennett Williams.
“While there is enormous uplifting good in the human spirit, racism is the dark side of humanity that has caused much suffering among our diverse human family. [Lanham Act, 15 U.S.c. §] Section 1052(a) wisely recognizes that one basic manifestation of prejudice, discrimination, or racism is the use of racially derogatory names, caricatures, or stereotypes that disparage peoples and persons and hold them up to contempt and ridicule; and this statute safeguards citizens through the registration of such trademarks,” NARF said.
“Native nations and citizens have a treaty, trust and special relationship with the United States, and rely on the federal government more than any other segment of society to make certain that its actions do no harm. Because of the duty of care owed to Indian tribes and people by the Department of Commerce, it is incumbent upon them to strictly enforce the provisions of 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a), in order to safeguard Indian tribes and citizens from racially or culturally disparaging federal trademarks.”