Could it possibly be over? You know, that decade-long taffy-pull about the NFL’s Washington Redskins needing to change the name of its franchise because it insulted, disrespected or otherwise upset some Native American folk?
And so, it seems the beleaguered football franchise valiantly dodged the ACLU bullets, and flaming arrows from one or two irritated Native Americans, and lived to tell as the Justice Department last week hoisted a tattered white flag in surrender.
And whom do we publicly thank for this momentous decision? Oh, that would be an Asian-American band who have battled the courts to retain their stage name, The Slants:
Supreme Court decision in Matal v. Tam in favor of an Asian-American band calling itself the Slants means the NFL team will prevail in a legal battle to cancel the team’s trademarks because the name is disparaging to Native Americans.
“Consistent with Tam, the Court should reverse the judgment of the district court and remand the case with instructions to enter judgment in favor of Pro-Football,” Mark Freeman, an attorney for the Justice Department’s civil division, wrote to the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
No one saw that coming. If one pays attention to football, way back in 2014, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the Redskins trademark citing, ‘Federal trademark law does not permit registration of trademarks that “may disparage” individuals or groups.” A mostly symbolic gesture that was implemented to cause financial damage to the club, as it would allow for bootlegging merchandise and “It dilutes the Redskins’ legal protection against infringement and hinders the team’s ability to block counterfeit merchandise from entering the country.”
Team owner, Dan Snyder, has repeatedly thumbed his nose at the hubbub surrounding his franchise and has refused to change the name, rallying the diehard fans, and a whopping four out of five people, agreed with his decision. But that didn’t stop the public drumbeat and chants to change the name. The California-based Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation (California? Who would’ve thunk it?) aired commercials, politicians in their yearning to be televised brought bills to floor, media types stopped saying “Redskins” on air, and new franchise names were bandied about as Snyder declared he would NEVER (yes, he always used all caps) change the name. Even the satirical news site The Onion weighed in on the controversy and reported:
Following an outpouring of criticism from across the country, the Washington Redskins announced Wednesday that they are officially changing the team’s name to the D.C. Redskins. “We’ve heard the concerns of many people who have been hurt or offended by the team’s previous name, and I’m happy to say we’ve now rectified the situation once and for all,” said franchise owner Dan Snyder, adding that “Washington Redskins” will be replaced with “D.C. Redskins” on all team logos, uniforms, and apparel. “It was a difficult decision—and one that, frankly, I’m a little embarrassed took me so long to make. So hopefully we can now put this issue to bed and start cheering on our D.C. Redskins.” In light of Snyder’s decision, Cleveland Indians owner Larry Dolan told reporters he will change the feather in Chief Wahoo’s headdress from red to a “more appropriate” shade of red.
The swamp does need an industrial plunger and a good draining, as it has become an embarrassment for such an enlightened populace to embrace. Maybe a name change will give us a do-over there as well.
For now, football fans will continue to root for (or boo) their Beltway warriors, radio, and television commentary will slowly add back “Redskins” in their coverage (it’s hard to call plays and announce scores without using the name of the team). And now Dan Snyder won’t have to change his mascot to a potato–which is a load off the minds of those sharpening their tomahawks and fluffing their game day headdresses.