Sunday, November 23, 2014

Who should decide whether team keeps its ‘bigoted’ name?

6/23/2014

Eyebrows were raised Wednesday when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that the Washington Redskins’ name is “disparaging of Native Americans” and should be stripped of trademark protection. It’s the latest in a long line of developments aimed at ending the name’s usage.

The movement to force Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the name of the team has gained a lot of steam, especially in the last year. Half of the Senate on Capitol Hill wrote letters to the National Football League asking for the change because “racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports.” Even President Obama has said he’d think about a name change if the team was his.

Eyebrows were raised Wednesday when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that the Washington Redskins’ name is “disparaging of Native Americans” and should be stripped of trademark protection. It’s the latest in a long line of developments aimed at ending the name’s usage.

The movement to force Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the name of the team has gained a lot of steam, especially in the last year. Half of the Senate on Capitol Hill wrote letters to the National Football League asking for the change because “racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports.” Even President Obama has said he’d think about a name change if the team was his.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke about the ruling on the Senate floor.

“Daniel Snyder may be the last person in the world to realize this,” Reid said, “but it is just a matter of time until he is forced to do the right thing.”

Not so fast, was the reply from the Redskins. After all, a similar ruling by the board in 1999 was overturned on a technicality in 2003 after the Redskins appealed.

“We’ve seen this story before,” Redskins attorney Bob Raskopf said. “And just like last time, [today’s] ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo. We are confident we will prevail once again.”

It’s unknown how long the appeals process will take, but it likely will take years. Snyder, who has said in the past he’ll never change the name, declined to comment on the latest event. But even if the appeal is lost, it doesn’t mean the Redskins have to change the team’s name.

However, it could cause a change in heart where it matters most — the pocketbook. If the ruling stands, anyone will be able to use Redskins for team apparel items and the team would have no recourse to stop them because there would be no trademark infringement. Kind of ironic since the Native Americans who filed the complaint want its usage stopped, not opened up for more to use.

But it could mean lost revenue to Snyder. The brand is estimated to be worth $145 million of the team’s total value of $1.8 billion. Also, all the NFL teams share the revenue from the sales of team-related items, so other owners might turn up the heat for Snyder to make the change.

Then there’s also the allure of a new name which would likely bring Snyder a scad of new money as Washington fans rush out to update their team wardrobe.

Likewise, Snyder could decide to finally give up the fight, keep his promise not to change the name and sell the franchise — at a tidy profit. He bought the team for $800 million, which is less than half of what it’s worth now.

It’s all about the money. It’s about Snyder’s right to do what he wants to make the most of it. But it’s his right, not anyone else’s, even if they’re on Capitol Hill — including the commander-in-chief.

The Hutchinson News

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