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Caucus Sports Studies: Troubling a Racial Slur: Researching and Resisting the use of R*dskins in Sport

Fri, October 9, 12:00 to 1:45pm, Sheraton Centre, Leaside

Session Submission Type: Non-Paper Session: Dialogue Format

Abstract

On June 18, 2014, The U.S. Trademark and Patent Office Trademark Trial Appeal Board (TTAB) issued its long awaited ruling in the case Blackhorse v. Pro Footbal, Inc., voided trademarks associated with the Washington, DC NFL franchise, because it found the team’s name, R*dskins, to be “disparaging.” The ruling, which echoed an earlier decision, Harjo et al v. Pro Football, Inc., overturned on appeal, followed precedent established by TTAB over the past two decades that had dismissed a range of trademark applications using the name.

Importantly, the decision resonates with ongoing scholarly inquiry into the use of American Indian representations and references in sport. It also reflects four decades of activism against the racial slur. In turn, heightened public awareness has prompted calls for change from journalists, coaches, politicians, and celebrities, while leading local school boards and sport organization in the USA and Canada to retire such mascots.

This session seeks to open a dialogue about the racial slur and its use in sporting worlds. In the process, it expands conversations around the articulations of sport, identity, and anti-Indian racism, as well as prospects for their transformation. It brings together academics and advocates to explore established understandings and emerging issues in scholarship about and struggles against the moniker. Specifically, it draws together activists who successfully challenged racist mascots in Ottawa and Saskatoon with researchers long devoted to understanding the historical foundations, cultural significance and indigenous understandings of them. It speaks squarely to the central theme of the meetings, The (Re)production of Misery and the Ways of Resistance, and also embodies it commitment to transnational, comparative engagement with America.

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