WASHINGTON (AP) — From an immediate, practical viewpoint, the ruling by a trademark board that the Washington Redskins have a "disparaging" nickname doesn't mean much. The team doesn't have to change a thing, and the matter will likely be tied up in courts for years.
From an emotional, intangible standpoint, however, the decision issued Wednesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is another boost for those who have been advocating change, increasing the financial and political pressure for a movement that has gained significant momentum over the last year and a half.
"I am a huge fan of the Washington football team, and I am also a huge fan of changing the name of the Washington football team," D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said. "This is yet another step in that direction."
By a 2-1 vote, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board sided with five Native Americans in a dispute that has been working its way through legal channels for more than two decades. It's a cascade in what has become a steady, almost daily, stream of developments that have called the name into question, with political, religious and sports figures — including President Barack Obama — weighing in on the topic.
"Even though it doesn't have a practical effect right now for the team, the timing is right in the middle of when this tide of different players and Senators and people are talking about it," said Brad Newberg, a copyright law expert in Virginia. "It's probably not the best timing from the team's perspective."
The Redskins quickly announced they will appeal, and the team's name will continue to have trademark protection while the matter makes its way through the courts. A similar ruling by the board in 1999 was overturned on a technicality in 2003.