The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today canceled the Washington Redskins trademark registration, saying the team name is “disparaging to Native Americans.”
That is in the eye of the beholder.
It is not disparaging to Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder, who owns the team. It is disparaging to the five Native Americans who brought the case.
It is not disparaging to other teams that use the nickname, including those at Native American schools.
71 percent of Americans think the name should not be changed.
The effect of the ruling is to strip protection from the Redskins brand, meaning pirates and counterfeiters are free to run wild. It hits Snyder in the wallet. Will that be enough to make him change? Doubtful. What might? Keep reading.
Previously, in 1999, Native Americans plaintiffs won at this stage. The team and NFL won on appeal and it is for sure both will appeal today.
I am not deeply invested in this matter, as I am not a Redskins Washington fan, but I am a fan of freedom of speech and common sense.
I believe Redskins is mildly offensive, but it is intended as a sincere honor. The Washington fight song is “Hail to the Redskins.”
It clearly is nowhere near as offensive as the N-word, which I would not even print here, and the N-word is all over the recording industry.
Not precisely the same thing, but you get the idea.
It’s not even clear that a majority of Native Americans are offended by the term. As shown above, some use the word for their own teams. Some Native Americans refer to themselves and each other as redskins, in the same way some blacks use the N-word.
Some argue that those in a group have a license to use the word (and disparage themselves), while “outsiders” don’t. That’s a double standard that I don’t accept. And yet I don’t use the N-word. That’s self-censorship, not imposed from above, and I do it because using that term would distract from my message.
Last October, President Obama weighed in. “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team — even if it had a storied history — that was offending a sizeable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”
Fair enough. But how much is a “sizeable group?”
It may be that as more time passes, more Americans will view Redskins as offensive, as a majority of Americans have come to view gay marriage as acceptable.
When our culture reaches that point, that’s when Dan Snyder or his successors may change the name of the team.
It shouldn’t be forced down their throats because Redskins is offensive to some people.
There is nothing I could name, even democracy, that is not offensive to somebody.
Some will even be offended by this blog post.