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Redskins Name Change Supporters Set Sights on 2014

The Washington Redskins 3-13 record may be forgettable, but one group is calling the 2013 season historic.

The Oneida Indian Nation on Monday launched a radio ad on the District’s airwaves noting that their campaign to change the team’s name gained some prominent supporters over the course of the year, including members of Congress and President Barack Obama.

Entitled “Historic,” the 90-second ad, marks 2013 as “the year the campaign against the R-word became a permanent movement,” and promises the New York-based tribe’s Change the Mascot campaign will continue to pressing team owner Dan Snyder for a name change.

“The United States is a country which champions civil rights and mutual respect, and the Washington team’s dictionary defined R-word slur has no place in modern-day society,” Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said in a statement announcing the ad. “While the team may be hoping to put this season behind them, I can assure everyone that our campaign opposing this racist epithet will return stronger than ever in 2014.”

Snyder, who shook up the team’s leadership Monday when he fired coach Mike Shanahan, has so far declined to scrap the longtime moniker. He has defended the term “Redskins,” citing the franchise’s great history, tradition and legacy.

The Oneida campaign counts Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and 14 members of the House, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., among the elected officials who have voiced or penned support for the end of the Redskins brand. Their list includes Maryland Democrat Donna Edwards, whose district includes Fed Ex Field, Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum, who protested the team’s arrival on her home turf during a November Vikings-Redskins face-off, and District Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Norton and McCollum teamed up this fall to speak out against the name during a “Change the Mascot” symposium at the Georgetown Ritz-Carlton, planned to coincide with the National Football League’s annual meeting of league owners and officials, also hosted by the hotel.

“What you have here is a growing movement,” Norton told CQ Roll Call on Monday. “It caught fire when the Oneida Nation actually made a real issue of it.”

But she said she has “an even better reason to hope for a change this year,” with the U.S. Patent Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board set to rule on a case that could strip the team of its trademark.

She pegs her hope on precedent set by a 1999 case. That year the board ruled that the name was disparaging and should be changed, but the Redskins were able to overturn the decision in federal court.

The five Native Americans challenging the name made their arguments to the board in March.

Norton believes a ruling against the trademark could arrive in early 2014, and supporters of the challenge are hoping that would cost the Redskins significant sums of money related to its marketing.

“If the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board abides by its own precedent, it must find this to be a disparaging trademark,” she said.

A bill Norton has cosponsored in the House designed to achieve the same ends appears stalled in Congress.

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