On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear an appeal of the Washington federal appeals court decision that ruled that the Native American appellants had waited too long to claim that the Redskins trademark was racist. This decision is expected to allow the Redskins to retain trademark protection for their team name. Seventeen years ago, seven activists filed papers to have the Redskins stripped of trademark protection because, in their view, the name is racist and offensive. The activists had success early in the process but lost at the two highest levels. Further attempts with possibly different appellants are expected.
Smithsonian Linguist Emeritus Ives Goddard spent several months researching the term “redskins” and found it had a benign origin. He found that the term was coined long ago by American Indians to differentiate themselves from white and black people. The offensive meaning claimed by the activists appears to have been coined in the 1960s.
The Boston NFL team was renamed Redskins in 1933 to honor its new head coach, Lone Star Dietz. Dietz’s central role in this controversy has brought his heritage to come under much scrutiny decades after his death.