WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that it's time for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to step in and tell the National Football League that it can't keep its registered trademark for the Washington Redskins, a term that's a racial slur for Native Americans.
“We all respect freedom of speech, but the trademark office has rejected names which are considered offensive and they should do it now," Pelosi said at an event hosted by the National Congress of American Indians. "They can keep their name on the team, but when it comes to all the stuff -- that's serious money. So I think that is one path that we can go."
Pelosi said people have long told her they find "the R-word" insulting, and that it was important to "use every tool at our disposal" to make a change.
"It’s time to choose another name," she said. "In fact, it’s long overdue.”
The California Democrat has already made it known that she thinks the football team should change its name. But her Thursday comments mark the first time she's put the spotlight on the trademark office and the power it has in the ongoing dispute.
If the trademark office did decide to revoke the NFL's trademark, it wouldn't be the first time it took action on the term. The Washington Post reported in January that the office has already refused to register trademarks containing the word "Redskins" at least 11 times since 1992. Each time, it was on the grounds that the word may disparage Native Americans.
Some of those rejected trademarks included Redskin Review, Redskins Fanatics, Redskin Pigskins, Redskin Rooters, Washington Redskins Cheerleaders and Washington Redskins 70th Anniversary Est. 1932 Limited Edition.
A spokesman for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office declined to weigh in on Pelosi's remarks and said the agency doesn't comment on open trademark cases. The agency has been reviewing a case involving the NFL's use of the Washington Redskins' trademark since 2006.
This article was updated after publication to reflect that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office declined to comment.