Social Justice Warriors and Democrats, including Barack Obama, have always demanded the Washington Redskins bow to political correctness and change their name.
In 2014, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office unilaterally decided the term was offensive and denied Washington’s request to renew the trademark.
However, a recent Supreme Court ruling should ensure the name won’t be changed unless the Washington franchise itself chooses to do so.
The court ruled that names deemed offensive are protected by the First Amendment with regard to trademark.
The Supreme Court on Monday struck down part of a law that bans offensive trademarks in a ruling that is expected to help the Washington Redskins in their legal fight over the team name.
The justices ruled that the 71-year-old trademark law barring disparaging terms infringes on free speech rights.
The ruling is a victory for an Asian-American rock band called the Slants, but the case was closely watched for the impact it would have on a separate dispute involving Washington’s football team.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder said he was “thrilled” with the Supreme Court’s ruling, and team attorney Lisa Blatt said the court’s decision effectively resolves the Redskins’ longstanding dispute with the government.
“The Supreme Court vindicated the Team’s position that the First Amendment blocks the government from denying or cancelling a trademark registration based on the government’s opinion,” Blatt said in a statement.
Slants founder Simon Tam tried to trademark the band name in 2011, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the request on the grounds that it disparages Asians. A federal appeals court in Washington later said the law barring offensive trademarks is unconstitutional.
The Redskins made similar arguments after the trademark office ruled in 2014 that the name offends American Indians and canceled the team’s trademark. A federal appeals court in Richmond put the team’s case on hold while waiting for the Supreme Court to rule in the Slants case.
[The Redskins] did not want to lose the legal protections that go along with a registered trademark. The protections include blocking the sale of counterfeit merchandise and working to pursue a brand development strategy.
The trademark office for years had raised no concerns about the Redskins, agreeing to register the name in 1967, 1974, 1978 and 1990. But the office canceled the registrations in 2014 after finding the name disparaged Native Americans.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court’s decision caused the New York Times to reverse its position on the Redskins name.
From the Washington Free Beacon:
The Times argued in 2014 that it was “clear that federal law prohibits the Patent and Trademark Office from registering trademarks that disparage people or bring them ‘into contempt, or disrepute.'”
“That is why the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board was right in ruling on Wednesday that six trademarks granted to the owners of the Washington Redskins football team should be canceled because the name is disparaging to many American Indians,” the paper concluded.
Free speech advocates at the time disagreed, arguing that the government should not act as the arbitrator of what speech is and is not offensive. Even if one found the term “Redskins” offensive, the ACLU argued, “government coercion … isn’t the way to make it right.”
The Supreme Court agreed on Monday, finding 8-0 that an Asian-American band had the right to trademark “The Slants,” even though some Asians would find the the term offensive. Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the law banning such trademarks “offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”
“At the time, this page supported the Trademark Office’s decision, and we still regard the Redskins name as offensive,” the editorial board wrote. “Based on this case, however, we’ve since reconsidered our underlying position.”
It seems being to the left of the entire Supreme Court and the ACLU was a bridge too far for the New York Times.
If the Redskins moniker is going to be changed, it should be the will of the organization and the fans, not the government.
According to a Washington Post poll, 90% of Native Americans don’t find the team name offensive, so it doesn’t seem that a name change has much groundswell of support, except among virtue signalers in the liberal sports media and Democratic politics.