Supreme Court pushes Redskins' name fight back to society

Advocates say the fight is still on.

The Supreme Court's ruling in The Slants case worries me; it looks more like a victory for government-sanctioned bigotry than a win for free speech.

This is strong medicine, both in terms of the support it offers free speech and in terms of what it requires of those who do take offense at expressions likely to enjoy court protection as a result of this opinion - specifically the Washington football team's name... It was dedicated, Tam said, to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is now under attack by social justice warriors who claim that offensive language should be banned including the name of the NFL's Washington Redskins. "I think people know that in the back of their minds, they know that".

The Washington Redskins are celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court's June 19 decision striking down the Patent and Trademark Office's ban on registering trademarks considered disparaging to racial or ethnic groups ( Matal v. Tam , Lee v. Tam, U.S., No. 15-1293, 6/19/17 ).The Supreme Court said an Asian-American rock band, the Slants, has a free speech right to register its name as a trademark even though it is a racial slur for Asians.

As it happens, The Slants is an Asian-American band that seeks to "reclaim" and "take ownership" of anti-Asian stereotypes (it has released albums called "The Yellow Album" and "Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts"). Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the law banning such trademarks "offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend".

In a passage that should be pasted into the student handbook of every college and read aloud by progressives who have convinced themselves that hate speech is not free speech, the court held, "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 that we hate'".

"If the NFL wants to live up to its statements about placing importance on equality, then it shouldn't hide behind these rulings, but should act to the end this hateful and degrading slur", said a joint statement from the National Congress of American Indians and the group Change the Mascot. We all must abide with the Supreme Court's decisions, but there's no mandate to agree with them.

Blackhorse called the decision "disheartening" after 11 years of litigation. Registration of a trademark makes it easier for a party to legally assert the mark against others who try to use it.

"I am THRILLED!" Snyder said, according to an email from the team's public relations department.

Another section of the brief, focused on the USPTO's contention that registered trademarks constitute government speech, also mentioned the Sex Pistols and Steely Dan (named after a dildo in William Burroughs's Naked Lunch).

The Redskins organization While many has been under attack as cultural insensitive but the team has resolved to keep the name and imagery. "The Supreme Court vindicated the Team's position that the First Amendment blocks the government from denying or cancelling a trademark registration based on the government's opinion".

  • Larry Hoffman