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Norton on Redskins Trademark Ruling: ‘Isn’t That Fabulous?!’

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“Isn’t that fabulous?” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., exclaimed Wednesday morning, reacting to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruling that cancelled the Washington Redskins trademark registration.  

The District Democrat has been disparaging her hometown football team’s name in concert with the Oneida Nation and other Native American groups that see the name as highly offensive.  

She told CQ Roll Call in December of her high hopes that the case would strip the team of its trademark, following the 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. “I may be the only one who’s not surprised,” Norton said Wednesday, referring to the decision announced that morning. She said her legal career — Norton taught at Georgetown, and was a practicing attorney before being elected to Congress in 1990 — familiarized her with the issues at stake.  

“I have been saying all along that the writing was not only on the wall, but indelibly on the wall,” she continued, pointing to four recent rulings in which the board rejected trademarks for Redskins brand products. This winter, the PTO refused to trademark the name “Redskins Hog Rinds” for a company that sells pork rinds, saying the name used an offensive, derogatory term.  

Norton hopes team owner Dan Snyder, who defends the name on the basis of its long and proud tradition, will accept the ruling, and acquiesce to the national movement  to get rid of the name. Opponents of the name are hoping that the ruling would cost the Redskins significant sums of money related to its marketing, forcing Snyder to come up with a new moniker.  

The congresswoman, however, thinks Snyder could come out ahead financially by rolling out a new line of merchandise that her constituents and other D.C. football fans would scoop off the shelves.  

“Far from losing money from changing the name, Snyder stands to make a mint,” she said.