“Redskins” Logo Lives On, Via Legal Loophole


The Redskins won this week. Twice. And both victories were sorely needed by the brand.

Faltering as an athletics program, the team “improved” its season record to three wins and six losses. But the big win was in the Supreme Court.

Or, actually, the victory was that the Supreme Court refused to hear the lawsuit against the team’s “Redskins” logo. Filed by a handful of American Indians, the suit claims that the name is racially insensitive.[more]

The ruling comes 17 years after the initial suit was filed.Though the Court declined to hear the case, the decision does not comment at all on the issue of racial insensitivity. Rather, the Court refused the case on the technical grounds that one of the plaintiffs was only a year old when the team received the trademark in 1967. But the Redskins aren’t out of the woods yet: another group of American Indians filed a similar suit two years ago.

Meanwhile, America’s other ongoing “Indian” logo controversy hit its own legal snag, when a handful of North Dakotan American Indians got a federal judge to issue a restraining order preventing the State Board of Education from retiring the Fighting Sioux logo prior to the November 2010 deadline imposed by the NCAA. But the lawyer in the latter case is raising eyebrows, having been linked to the private Ralph Engelstead Arena, which has a vested financial interest in keeping the Fighting Sioux logo. Legal experts called the judge’s ruling “bizarre.”

In the end, both cases frame the emotion invested in these brands. Rabid fans are dedicated to their beloved logos, regardless of how others may interpret what those brands stand for. But with the increasing legal assault on such names, it is difficult to believe either has much of a long-term future.