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.
Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.
Much Ado About Nothing (of Real Importance)
by JBS President John F. McManus
Youngsters by the thousands have crossed into the United States in a new wave, invading our nation. They are being given food, shelter, and medical treatment courtesy of the American taxpayer. The federal government, supposedly the guardian and policeman of the border, has actually stimulated the massive crossing and is actually encouraging more to come with the generosity given to those already here.
In Iraq, the country that the U.S. tore apart because of non-existent weapons of mass destruction and false claims that its leaders had ties to Al Qaeda plus complicity in the 9/11 attack, is now being besieged by a new wave of militant Islamists. Those who continue to advocate U.S. policing of the world want our forces to reenter the country, flex a few muscles, kill a few more, and undoubtedly add to the already achieved list of U.S. casualties.
The U.S. government continues to deepen the nation’s indebtedness while scorn gets heaped upon any attempt or even any advocacy of cutting spending for numerous completely unconstitutional programs (e.g. foreign aid, housing, education, medicine, etc.).
But instead of dealing properly and constitutionally with the above problems and many more, attention is focused on the name of the Washington Redskins. Described as a “racial slur” that is offensive to some, the “Redskin” part of the name is the target although one wag suggested that the “Washington” portion of the team’s name is more loathed by many Americans because of the deficiencies and outrages consistently being emanating from the nation’s capital. According to RedState columnist Eric Erickson, school teams on several Indian reservations proudly call themselves the “Redskins.” It’s clearly not offensive to them and, if so, why is there a growing demand for ditching the name?
On June 18th, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that use of the term is “disparaging” to many American Indians. Some Indians agree. But this federal bureaucratic decision doesn’t force the hand of team owner Dan Snyder to make any change. He has adamantly informed all that there will be no change. Even so, he has appealed the ruling. Meanwhile, U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) outspokenly called for the Redskins to ditch their name. And other liberals, including the likes of TV sports announcer Bob Costas, have ginned up the cry for altering the name.
Several years ago, a North Dakota university caught the wrath of the nation’s busybodies because its teams had for years been known as the “Fighting Sioux.” Sioux spokesmen came to the school’s defense telling all who would listen that they liked the name, were even proud of it, and hoped it would remain. It didn’t. A similar campaign targeted Florida State University whose teams are known as the Seminoles. But Seminole support for the name has so far kept change from occurring there.
If the Redskins cave in, what of the Atlanta Braves whose fans wave their arms in tomahawk fashion and chant an Indian war hoop during games? Isn’t that displaying a form of racism and maybe even a love for reinstituting war? What of the Cleveland Indians? Think for a moment about the Pittsburgh Pirates and their audacity in adoption of the name of criminals who killed and pillaged for centuries?
It’s well past the time that all Americans ought to focus more on real problems. News headlines should be focusing on foreign policy and the U.S. involvement in the Middle East, the current influx of illegal immigrants and the action our government is taking to accommodate them, stopping the free trade agenda, and much more. Count me as one in the camp of those who say the Redskins should be left to win or lose on the football field, not having to satisfy a minority that thinks a mere molehill is a huge mountain.