Congressman Mike Honda

Representing the 17th District of California & Silicon Valley
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Congressman Honda Introduces Legislation to Remove Trademark Protection for Washington Football Team Name

Feb 3, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC – Continuing his promotion of the modern progressive agenda, Congressman Mike Honda (D-Silicon Valley) today introduced legislation to prevent sports teams from using a derogatory slur for Native Americans as their nickname, The Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act.

This bill will retroactively cancel any existing federal trademarks, and prohibit the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) from issuing new trademarks, using the term “redskins” in reference to Native Americans. It will formally declare that the word “redskins” is a disparaging term when used in reference to Native Americans, and thus cannot be trademarked under The Lanham Act. In January, the Department of Justice joined a lawsuit to defend the constitutionality of The Lanham Act.

“It is unbelievable to me that, in the 21st century, a prominent NFL franchise is calling itself by a racial slur,” Congressman Honda said. “Team names should not be offensive to anyone. Allowing trademark protection of this word is akin to the government approving its use. Removing that trademark will send a clear message that this name is not acceptable.”

This bill is part of Congressman Honda’s kick off of his 114th Congress legislative agenda.  Each of the first six weeks, he will be introducing legislation that addresses a key area of the modern progressive agenda. Previously, he introduced bills on Manufacturing and Technology and Public Safety, Human Trafficking, and STEM Education. In the next two weeks he will introduce legislation on Education, and the Environment and Energy Infrastructure. 

Supporting statements for this legislation from outside organizations include:

“The negative and historic connotation of the word ‘r*dskins’—and the modern day implications it carries for Native people—has no place in today’s society. We are thankful that Congressman Honda has introduced the Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act. Congressman Honda and the bill co-sponsors have chosen to stand on the right side of history by introducing legislation that would effectively eliminate the federal trademark protections of this racial epithet. We look forward to working with Congressman Honda and the Congress to finally bring an end to the use of this derogatory term in the National Football League.”

--Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director, The National Congress of American Indians

“UNITY: Journalists for Diversity believes that the 'R-word' has no place in American sports. It's an epithet used toward Native Americans and should no longer be part of our vocabulary in 2015. We strongly stand behind this bill and hope that this disparaging term soon will no longer be part of any team's name.” 

--Russell Contreras, President, UNITY

“The National Indian Education Association (NIEA) supports Congressman Honda and applauds his introduction of the Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act of 2015. This important legislation would cancel existing federal registrations for trademarks using the term “redsk*n” and deny registration for new trademarks incorporating the disparaging term. The use of mascots that depict Native Americans is a testament to the continued practice of the outright commodification of Native peoples and their unique cultural identities.  It destroys the individual self-esteem of Native students and devalues the cultures of Native peoples. This is unacceptable. NIEA looks forward to working with Congressman Honda’s office to move this legislation quickly, so that it becomes law.” 

--Clint Bowers, Policy Associate, National Indian Education Association  

“The overwhelming majority of Native people support an end to the racial slur that is the name of the Washington NFL franchise. It is a reminder of the vile practice of skinning Natïve people for ‘proof of Indian kill’ for payment of bounties issued by colonies and states. Even if it only meant the color of one's skin, it would be the worst case of invidious discrimination committed in public in our time. In 23 years of litigation in two lawsuits, the franchise has not brought any Native people into court on its side. Instead, it parades individuals before the media who in no way are equivalent to the memberships and constituencies of the major national Native organizations. The federal trademark judges have twice cancelled the registrations for this disparaging name. This legislation would affirm those decisions and withdraw the federal stamp of approval for this ongoing offense, and we are proud to support the Non-Disparagement Act.” 

--Suzan Harjo, President and Executive Director, The Morning Star Institute, Presidential Medal of Freedom winner

Press Contact

Communications Director Carmen Russell  | (408) 436-2720 |