Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid exulted in his small victory over the Washington Redskins football team on Wednesday, declaring “the writing is on the wall” after the government revoked the NFL franchise’s patent over a name they call “disparaging” to Native Americans.
The Nevadan lawmaker has led the charge in the Congress to get Redskins owner Dan Snyder to abandon his long-held team name. Snyder has repeatedly balked, citing tradition and the overwhelming support of fans.
But that meant nothing to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which on Wednesday revoked the team’s patent in a 2-1 decision. “This racial designation based on skin color is disparaging to Native Americans,” the patent board wrote.
The move means the NFL team will eventually be unable to stop competitors from using the name and logo on merchandise, though the patent will remain in force until the conclusion of the Redskins’ appeal.
Reid was exultant on the Senate floor Wednesday. “Daniel Snyder says it’s about tradition,” he said. “I ask what tradition? A tradition of racism? That’s all that that name leaves in its wake.”
“The writing is on the wall,” the powerful Democratic senator warned. “It’s on the wall in giant, blinking, neon lights. The names will change, and just will be done for the tribes in Nevada and across the nation who care so deeply about this issue.”
“The patent and copyright office today took away all the trademarks,” he gloated. “The Redskins no longer have trademarks. They are gone.”
“And so as I understand the law,” the majority leader mistakenly explained, “the presiding officer — if the presiding officer wants to use the name Redskins to sell some shirts, you can do that.”
“There is no trademark anymore for the Redskins,” Reid repeated. “Daniel Snyder may be the last person in the world to realize this, but it’s just a matter of time before he’s forced to do the right thing.”
As for the Redskins themselves? They’re unconcerned.
“We’ve seen this story before,” trademark attorney Bob Raskopf said in a statement. “And just like last time, today’s ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo.”