Let ’Em Be Redskins
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
Yes, the federal government has an office created to protect trademarks. It’s at this office that one goes to register a nickname, a team logo, a chosen moniker, even a name that someone might find offensive.
The U.S. Copyright and Trademark Office branch of the federal government is unlike one of those dangerously meddlesome bureaus whose rulings chop away at freedom. The most well known trademark under attack for years has been “Redskins,” Washington’s professional football team. The team’s owner actually registered its long-standing trademark(s) in 1967, 1974, 1978, and 1990.
Busybody liberals have claimed that the term “Redskins” is offensive and have campaigned to force the team to cease using it. Some Washington detractors have suggested that the name Washington Redskins ought to be changed by dropping “Washington” and referring to the team to as “Redskins” alone.
Just before ending its term in June, the Supreme Court issued a ruling favoring the use of the term “Slants” by an Asian-American dance-rock band. In that 8-0 decision (Justice Gorsuch was not yet a Court member when the matter was heard early in 2017), the justices split on their reasoning. Writing for himself and Justices Thomas, Roberts and Breyer, Justice Samuel Alito stated:
Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful. But the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought we hate.”
Writing for himself and Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, Justice Kennedy said the issue amounted to “viewpoint discrimination.” He and his three colleagues believed that banning “viewpoint discrimination” in this or any case amounts to “Government censorship.” That’s a welcome summation.
The “Slants” insisted they weren’t trying to disparage anyone. Instead, they felt that using such a term would help make it a “a badge of pride.” Justice Kennedy agreed and cited their attitude in his ruling, even labeling the term “Slants” as “happy talk.”
For years, some overly sensitive meddlers have sought to force Florida State University to cease calling its team “the Seminoles.” But representatives of the Florida’s Seminole tribe said they were proud to be so recognized by the university. In North Dakota, a state university bowed to pressure and ceased calling its athletes the “Fighting Sioux.” Maybe the ruling about the “Slants” will encourage North Dakota to rethink its decision.
Had common sense not prevailed in the case brought against the “Slants,” more mischief loomed on the horizon. Would Holy Cross College be forced by an aggrieved Muslim to junk the use of “Crusaders” for its athletes? Providence College calls its teams “Friars.” Surely there are some who would like to change that. Many other team names likely bother somebody.
Washington Redskins lawyer Lisa Blatt believes the case against her client has essentially been decided with the ruling handed down in the “Slants” case. We hope she is correct. And we hope that the Supreme Court will never again have to render an opinion in such a trivial matter.
Nothing New about Fake News
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
Would anyone deliberately plant and then spread false information on the Internet and elsewhere? The answer is so obvious that it’s akin to asking if tomorrow’s sun will rise in the East. Of course it will happen. And, of course, deliberate issuance of what is known to be false has lately become a relatively common occurrence.
Hillary Clinton recently broke the silence that has been her fate since losing the recent election. She spoke at a farewell party for retiring Nevada Senator Harry Reid. Intoning solemnly about an “epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda,” she obviously hoped that her own use of the tactic wouldn’t be recalled. But she is an expert at issuing falsehoods.
In 1996, she visited Bosnia as America’s First Lady to salute U.S. forces in the region. More than ten years later, she claimed that her plane had landed amidst “sniper fire,” even adding that there “was supposed to be some kind of greeting ceremony at the airport, but we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.” Several news sources eventually debunked the story, some citing Major General William Nash, the U.S. commander in Bosnia who said there was no such “sniper fire.” The fake news she issued was surely delivered to advance her desire to be known as courageous.
Mrs. Clinton would later tell news sources that her daughter Chelsea narrowly managed to flee the vicinity of the Twin Towers in 2001 as those buildings crashed to the earth. Supposedly, Chelsea was fortunate to run away from all of the destructiveness. But Chelsea was nowhere near the site of the 9/11 destruction on that fateful day.
As Secretary of State in 2012, Mrs. Clinton blamed an inconsequential anti-Islam video made in in Los Angeles for the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi. The U.S. ambassador and three others died in that skirmish. But the privately made video wasn’t the reason for the attack at all. Her planting of that bit of fake news went so far as to tell the mother of one of the deceased Americans that the video alone led to the four deaths. She sought to cover up her own inadequacies with that bit of false news.
Fake news has sometimes spawned enormous consequences. In August 1964, President Lyndon Johnson pointed to an attack on U.S. warships by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. The supposed attack spawned congressional passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that led to a huge escalation of the war in Vietnam. But there was no such attack by enemy torpedo boats according to U.S. pilots flying over the area at the time. The mythical Tonkin incident was fake news used by those anxious to expand the war in Vietnam.
In 1963, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren placed blame for the assassination of President Kennedy on the right wing. There was no evidence to back up that assertion but it did result in a few bricks being thrown through the windows of The John Birch Society headquarters in Massachusetts. Fake news does lead to real action.
Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution or with the brick throwing. But her use of fake news for her own purposes makes her a leader in the fake news field. In her speech honoring Harry Reid, she called for congressional hearings and eventual legislation to deal with the “epidemic” of fake news that places “lives of ordinary people at risk.” She places herself as a leader in efforts to cancel the right to – rightly or wrongly – discuss political issues.
She knows what can happen when falsehoods are spread, especially when spread by people who are supposed to be reliable. Her newly outspoken concern about falsehoods may indicate her desire for government control of the Internet where false news has found a home.
Score a Big Win For Homosexuality: What Has Happened to Morality?
By JBS President John F. McManus
In days gone by, the incident would never have occurred. Nor would objecting to it have triggered a disciplinary response. But these aren’t ordinary days.
Michael Sam is a football player. While finishing up his college career, he won plaudits from the usual corners for announcing that he was a homosexual. Selected by a National Football League team in the annual draft of future players, he celebrated by promptly and publicly planting a kiss on his male friend while TV cameras were rolling. Already elevated to national prominence and lauded for “courage” and “forward thinking” by the customary gaggle of media leftists, Sam’s gesture rocketed him to fame.
Not everyone applauded the male-to-male display of affection. One who disagreed and said so is Miami Dolphin player Don Jones. He tweeted that he was disgusted, even offended, by what Sam had done in front of national television cameras. For registering that stance, Jones was fined by the Dolphins and banned from attending team activities until he undergoes “training for his recent comments made on social media.” He was disciplined for expressing distaste for Sam’s conduct but even more for indicating opposition to homosexuality.
Ultimately, it isn’t what Jones stated that had to be combated. It isn’t even that Sam is a homosexual willing to flaunt his choice of lifestyle before the public. In a land where free speech is supposed to be guaranteed by the First Amendment, is it no longer possible for someone to express disagreement over conduct that has heretofore been regarded as detestable. Does the comment made by Jones merit dragging him into a session with some sociologists who will work him over to improve his attitude or, at a minimum, keep him from expressing it? How is this Miami Dolphin response different from the reeducation camps that were routinely conducted by communist cadres in Vietnam, China, and elsewhere? Do “thought police” belong in the NFL? Or anywhere in America?
The Dolphin front office doesn’t have to keep Jones on their team. As an employer, they can simply tell him he’s no longer wanted. But that’s not what they did. They obviously want the homosexual lifestyle brought more into the mainstream and they took swift action to demonstrate their preference. By their action, the Dolphin leaders sent a message to all in the NFL and to its millions of fans that homosexuality must now be accepted and no protest, even a tiny negative comment about it in a tweet, will be tolerated. Jones, who objected, not to homosexuality itself but to its public display, got punished. As far as we know, Sam’s televised display of contempt for traditional mores didn’t draw any rebuke from the team that chose him. In some circles, it even drew applause.
Traditional morality took a hit in this instance. This places the incident far beyond the matter of free speech. Will a marriage for Sam and his partner be next? Why not in this “anything goes” descent into the swamps?