The Supreme Court Just Made A Washington ‘Redskins’ Name Change Much Less Likely
The NFL franchise in Washington, D.C., received a major boost in its fight to save its controversial “Redskins” name Monday morning, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in a separate legal dispute.
At issue is the team’s federal trademark protections for the nickname, which Native American activists have described as a “dictionary-defined racial slur.” The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board invalidated those trademark protections in 2014, ruling that the name was “disparaging to Native Americans” and thus violated a clause in a federal trademark law.
The Supreme Court, however, struck down that clause Monday, ruling that the law’s prohibition on providing federal trademarks for disparaging terms or logos violated the First Amendment’s free speech protections.
The court’s ruling came in a case brought by a band named “The Slants,” which also lost its trademark protections after the trademark board said the moniker was disparaging to Asians and Asian-Americans. The band’s members are all Asian-American, and they argued that they were re-appropriating the term, rather than using it disparagingly.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear The Slants’ case last year, after a lower court declared the anti-disparagement clause in trademark law unconstitutional in 2015.
“The commercial market is well stocked with merchandise that disparages prominent figures and groups, and the line between commercial and non-commercial speech is not always clear, as this case illustrates,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion. “If affixing the commercial label permits the suppression of any speech that may lead to political or social ‘volatility,’ free speech would be endangered.”
The ruling won’t put an immediate end to the football team’s […]