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Wilton Sports Shop Worker Predicts Redskins Will Change Name

Sam Ross, at the Wilton Sports Shop, believes the Washington Redskins will have to change their nickname after losing trademark protection due to the fact it disparages Native Americans. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Stuart Brenner, owner of Bob's Sports shop in New Canaan, believes other teams with Native American nicknames may face problems after the Washington Redskins lost trademark protection due to the fact the name is considered disparaging. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

WILTON, Conn. -- Sam Ross, who works at a sports shop in Wilton and played football at Norwalk High School, has no doubt that the Washington Redskins will eventually have to change their name.

"Eventually. Definitely. If the term offends anyone, at some point the market will dictate that it will start costing them money," he said about the team. "I feel like they are plugging holes in a dam one hole at the time. Eventually they will have to change it."

A three-judge panel at the Patent & Trademark Office ruled 2-1 earlier this week that the Redskins nickname wasn't worthy of federal trademark protection. The decision could escalate the campaign against a brand that the NFL and team owner Daniel M. Snyder have vigorously defended against increasingly strident criticism.

Stripping away trademark protection could dent the sport's lucrative licensing business and could make it harder to defend against counterfeit products. The appeal of the decision, however, could delay any potential effect for years.

Ross, 23, who played wide receiver at Norwalk High School and just graduated from Arizona State University, works at the Wilton Sport Shop at 426 Danbury Road. He said that if the nickname Redskins is considered offensive, it will be changed.

"It is a slur if one person thinks its a slur; it's got to go at some point," he said. "I think they are just putting up a fight because the owner is a real hard line guy. He's going to fight for his rights."

Regardless of what the team is called, Ross said the Redskins fans will support the team, both on and off the field.

"Their fan base will buy whatever they sell," he said. 

Ross said he has heard various alternative nicknames proposed, including the Americans, Natives or Warriors. The Warriors, incidentally, is the nickname for Wilton High School.

Stuart Brenner, owner of Bob's Sports in New Canaan, said the decision could force other teams to change their names.

"Once you open the door for that, they are going to have to do it for a lot of other ones," he said about the Native American-themed nicknames throughout amateur, college and professional sports. He cited the example of Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians.

Brenner, who said he believes only a small minority of people are upset about the Redskins name, said there is a tremendous amount of money to be made in licensing merchandise for professional and college teams.

Jerseys and other gear such as baseball hats that are officially licensed cost three times as much as the same quality jerseys and hats without logos, he said. That markup is a massive windfall for teams and leagues, he said.

If Washington loses its appeal, it would mean anyone could sell Redskins merchandise without fear of legal repercussions, he said. 

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