The political-correctness obsessed Democratic component of our government has decided that forcing Dan Snyder to change the name of his football team due to its alleged offensiveness to people who don’t care about football is a legitimate government function, or so they would have us believe. Actually, they believe it is a legitimate political function to lick the moccasins of progressive activist groups who thrive on opportunities to tell others what they can safely say.
After Senate Democrats signed an unethical missive threatening the Washington Redskins if the team wasn’t renamed something that an enterprising race-baiter wouldn’t find offensive—not as easy as it may seem— the Patent and Trademark Office canceled the registration of “Redskins” using the excuse that Federal trademark law excludes the registration of “scandalous, immoral, or disparaging marks” as well as trademarks that a “substantial composite of the referenced group” perceives as disparaging to a religion, nation, ethnic group, or belief system. [ You can read my opinion on this ruling here. I’d quote from it, but it’s Christmas Eve.]
The ruling was upheld in the Fourth Circuit, despite the fact that it seem to be fairly blatant viewpoint-based restriction of speech, or in other words, unconstitutional. To his credit, Snyder is not allowing the Democrats to bully him or illegally try to control his speech either, and has the resources to fight. The betting is that the Supreme Court will tell the Trademark Office to stop playing politics.
The Patent and Trademark Office also barred the registration of “The Slants,” the trademarked name of Simon Tam’s Asian-American band. Now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit just held, in the case of In re Tam, by a 9-to-3 vote, that this exclusion of “disparaging” trademarks, and, by extension, the Redskins ban as well, violates the First Amendment. This means that the Redskins case is likely to go to the Supreme Court if the government doesn’t agree to let people trademark whatever the want to, regardless of who or what it might “disparage.”
When I was in college and you had told me that the liberals would be the ones trying to censor speech and control expression in 2015, I would have suggested that you got some baaad weed and were, like, freaking out, man.
Prof. Eugene Volokh, who agrees with the Federal Circuit, has more about the decision here.
I would like to see Snyder fight off the unethical government speech bullies, foil the political correctness hordes, and then, after he hasn’t heard a peep about team for a couple of years quietly change the anachronistic team name on his own volition. It’s time. The message sent by capitulating to the activists trying to force him to change, however, would be the same dangerous message sent by today’s college administrators, which is that a claim of offense doesn’t have to be reasonable to effectively muzzle speech, just persistent.