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Etsy Bars Sellers from Using Term ‘Redskins’

Online marketplace Etsy is barring sellers from using the term “Redskins” on its site. The Washington Redskins is an NFL football team in Washington, DC. Some people have protested the team’s name and logo and have advocated for the league to change the name, saying it is disparaging to Native Americans and offensive and racist, Etsy explained.

As a result of protests, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently canceled the team’s trademarks. Wikipedia says, “Support for continued use of the name has come from the team’s owners and a majority of fans, which include some Native Americans. They say that the name honors the achievements and virtues of Native Americans, and that it is not intended in a negative manner.”

A search for “Redskin” or “Redskins” on Etsy on Wednesday brings back over 2,000 results.

In a blog post announcing the new policy, Etsy wrote: “Like the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, we at Etsy find the opinion of the minority group itself to carry most weight in determining whether the mascot is disparaging. In no uncertain terms, Native American groups have consistently advocated and litigated that the term “redskin(s)” is disparaging and damaging to Native Americans. Therefore, it will no longer be permitted in our marketplace.”

Etsy Policy Manager Bonnie Broeren said Etsy is seeking to balance two principles: freedom of speech and protection from discrimination. “Freedom of speech and expression is important to us because we are a community of artists, artisans, and curators of all backgrounds, aesthetics, and viewpoints.”

She also said that freedom had limits. “We want Etsy to be safe, welcoming, and respectful for everyone, including artists, women, and minorities. For this reason, it has long been against our policies to allow content on our site that demeans people based upon race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation.”

Sellers can continue selling items that contain the team colors and location on Etsy, but items containing the name or the logo will no longer be allowed. It did not make any suggestions about what terms sellers could use to describe such items.

Broeren said the Etsy Marketplace Integrity Team is in the process of contacting members affected by the policy via email. You can find her full post on the Etsy blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.